Alabama judge gets called to jury duty

Alabama Judge on jury duty
Alabama Judge on jury duty
Published: Jun. 26, 2021 at 6:26 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - No one is exempt from jury service, not even Jefferson County’s presiding judge.

When Elisabeth French, who spent 10 years on the bench and the last year as presiding judge, got a summons for jury duty in the 10th Judicial Circuit Court of Alabama in March, she says she brought some unrelated work to the jury assembly room court and waited for the opportunity to serve...which never came. Even though she says she had hoped to see the process from the juror’s side.

“I didn’t think that the lawyers in either criminal or civil cases would want me on their jury,” says French.

While most people who get a summons may not want to serve, French says the county needs them to serve, with responses to summonses falling about 30% over the last year. She wants citizens to know that since the pandemic, court administrators in Montgomery have streamlined the check-in process so that qualifying and requests to be excused can start online.

But Judge French says citizens can play an important role in helping the system recover from COVID-related delays, just by showing up.

“Just having a jury outside, waiting in the hallway, we’ll get two or three cases settled,” which she says helps the judges keep their dockets current and waits for resolution of cases reasonable.

And while state law says people who don’t answer a summons are subject to a fine or even arrest, Judge French hopes that people will respond to the opportunity to contribute to a justice system that is imperfect, but needs them.

“If you have a jury of peers, if you have a jury that reflects the community, a jury that understands and can sympathize with with the defendant, I think that nine times out of ten, the jury is going to do what is right”.

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