It’s the summons that Americans love to hate.
It seems nobody likes to be called for jury duty.
And some people just don’t show up.
But now, one judge in Belmont County says that’s unacceptable.
Judge Frank Fregiato says if you’re called for jury duty in Belmont County, you’ll either come in now, or come in later.
“If they don’t appear, I have started a new system where they’re ordered to appear before the court to explain exactly why,” says Judge Fregiato.
He understands that emergencies arise.
But a deliberate no-show will not be accepted.
“They will be arrested,” the judge said.
Most people are not thrilled to get a jury summons.
“My reaction to jury duty is terrible,” admits Kathy Sutton of Mt. Pleasant. “I do not want to do it whatsoever.”
“My reaction would be, like, oh shoot, I really don’t want to do this,” chuckled Mark Dimmerling of St. Clairsville.
“We do understand that jury duty is a tremendous inconvenience to some people’s schedule, whether it’s family, work, shoveling the snow, cutting the grass, whatever,” Judge Fregiato said.
But he says after they serve, their attitude changes.
“Almost every juror I’ve ever been involved with–and this has been over a period of literally decades–has been shocked at how rewarding the system has been,” he noted.
He understands that many people have compelling reasons for why they can’t serve on a jury.
“They may very well be excused, depending on the situation,” the judge said. “Perhaps there’s a work problem, perhaps a problem with a family member at home who is ill.”
But they still need to answer the summons.
And some people are happy to do it.
“I would absolutely do it,” says Amanda Riser of St. Clairsville. “I think it’s part of our civic duty.”
For the person on trial, it’s the most important moment of their life.
For the prospective juror, it’s important too.
So Judge Fregiato has just one piece of advice.
“Show up,” he says with a smile.