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Jury duty: An obligation we try to make as easy as possible

Jury duty: An obligation we try to make as easy as possible

Chief judge: Thanks to all who serve as jurors.

The victim of a violent crime, a person injured in a car accident, a doctor sued for medical malpractice, a citizen accused of a crime, a supplier trying to get paid for its product, property owners contesting boundary lines — what do they have in common? If their disputes go to trial, they are dependent on jurors — their fellow citizens — to resolve their case.

Jurors are the lifeblood of the justice system. Without them, cases cannot be resolved. Because of the vital role jurors play in the orderly and peaceful resolution of disputes, I have declared Juror Appreciation Week, starting today.

Each year, thousands of Central Floridians receive notices (called summonses) to report for jury service. Last year, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, comprising Orange and Osceola counties, mailed nearly 170,000 summonses to jurors.

As you may imagine, it takes an incredible amount of planning and organization to notify and process the large number of jurors who report each week to both courthouses. With limited but dedicated staff, the Ninth Judicial Circuit's jury-services department has only seven employees across the two counties, and they work tirelessly to ensure that jury panels are available for trial.

With extensive coordination, through the years we have dramatically reduced the number of jurors brought in for jury service. That has saved tax dollars. It also has reduced the time citizens take off from work or must be away from their families to report for jury duty.

The court is mindful of the sacrifices people make in order to report for jury service. For this reason, we provide award-winning jury assembly rooms, where our jurors have access to Wi-Fi, data connections, storage lockers, and a cyber café with internet connection, among other things — all free of charge. While jurors are waiting to be placed on a panel, jury staff maintains close communication with the judges. Jurors are released as soon as jury panels are no longer needed, so they can return to their lives outside the courthouse.

If you are an employer, I ask you to please pay your employees when they are called for jury duty. I recognize the sacrifice you and your employees make when your worker is summoned for jury service. But trial by jury is one of the most sacred, time-honored principles of our democracy, and I respectfully ask for your support in this important endeavor.

So the next time you receive a jury summons, remember the special and unique role you are being asked to play in our judicial system. We are doing everything possible to limit the sacrifice of time and energy that you will have to make by serving as a juror. I, my colleagues, and your neighbors in our circuit depend on you to fulfill your duty.

And to all who have faithfully reported for jury service throughout the years, permit me to extend my deepest appreciation. You have strengthened our nation by fulfilling your civic responsibility.

Frederick Lauten is chief judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Orange and Osceola counties.

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