If you are a local reader, I'm sure you've read by now about Margaret Young, the venire member held in contempt by Judge Kelly Case for failing to attend jury duty. She opted to attend a celebration of a student being diagnosed as cancer-free, rather responding to a jury duty summons.
Here's the irony behind the story -- every day, a large number of people completely disregard their jury summons. They just toss it in the garbage.
In the vast majority of those cases, absolutely nothing happens to the person who failed to attend jury duty. I mean, seriously, nothing.
In the case of Ms. Young, it is my understanding that she called in and attempted to reschedule. Due to the fact that she actually felt enough civic responsibility to call in, the Court was made aware of the fact that she did not plan on coming. Since she had made her name available to the Court, Judge Case had the luxury of having an actual named person to single out for skipping jury duty.
Thus, the contempt charge.
The fact of the matter is that if Ms. Young had just tossed her summons in the trash can, she never would have ended up spending six hours in jail for missing jury duty.
So, yeah, Judge Case just taught us all a fantastic civics lesson -- you are better off ignoring the judiciary than trying to negotiate with them.
I'm tremendously disappointed in Case. I don't know the man well. I watched him in a DWI trial once and was very impressed by his trial ability and knowledge as a defense attorney. I thought he would be a judge that took into account the fact that there are always two sides to every story.
I am, however, glad to see Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon's response.
I've known Brett for a long time now, and I've always been a fan. His words in the article are very telling. As quoted in The Courier of Montgomery County:
"The six hours she spent in custody is already 'immeasurably more onerous than the lawful remedy of a fine at your disposal,' Ligon said."Mr. Ligon is entirely too diplomatic to state, "What the hell were you thinking?" but that gets pretty close.
This case is pretty infuriating.
Jury service is never convenient for anyone, but those people who actually bother to try to reschedule should always be accommodated. Otherwise, you send out the screaming message to just toss the summons altogether.
The fact that Ms. Young had such a fantastic reason to miss jury duty only magnifies the judicial arrogance behind Judge Case's incredibly misguided use of his power.
There is a phrase attributed to judges who believe that their power supersedes the interests of all others and makes them, somehow, superior to all others -- Black Robe Disease.
There isn't a lawyer who has ever handled a case that hasn't seen it -- in one form or the other, in varying degrees.
I am just genuinely shocked to have seen it so early and so significantly with Judge Case.