- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Outstanding warrants have been issued for about 250 D.C. scofflaws who failed to show up to explain why they did not come to Superior Court to be jurors.
Statistics are being kept, but it is too early to determine if the September crackdown by Chief Superior Court Judge Rufus King II is resulting in more residents serving on juries, said court spokeswoman Leah Gurowitz.
The dictionary defines scofflaw as a person who "fails to answer court summons." The 250 have failed to appear before Judge King to explain why they did not respond to summonses to serve on juries.
Only eight have been arrested so far. But the remaining scofflaws are not off the hook, officials say. One way or another, the law will catch up with most of them. Either by a knock on the door from a police officer, or being arrested and handcuffed when, after committing a minor traffic violation, the police officer radios in and learns that the motorist is "wanted."
"We're not looking to punish people. We are just looking for them to do their duty," Judge King said.
One of the eight arrested was jailed overnight, only to be excused from duty. Another was no longer a resident. Another had a legal excuse to not serve. Five are scheduled to be jurors.
"I think it's going pretty well," said Judge King about the first real effort in Superior Court history to make residents do their civic duty. "We're finding that most of the people who are coming in are willing to serve."
He decided to get tough last year when records indicated only 20 percent to 25 percent of 250,000 qualified residents appeared for jury duty.
The District is not alone. Courts in other major U.S. cities have similar neglect statistics. Some are even worse. Only 10 percent of Los Angeles' residents respond to a jury summons, according to the National Center for State Courts.
"That places a huge burden on that portion of the population that takes its civic responsibility seriously, because they end up serving over and over again," Judge King said.
"What's interesting is that people who serve on jury duty find it fascinating," Miss Gurowitz said. "We've tried to make it as easy as can be."
Jurors are paid $4 daily for transportation and $30 for duty. There is a free day care center for children. There is a "quiet room" with faxes and modems.
Judge King is to be "commended for calling [scofflaws] on the carpet," said Samuel F. Harahan, executive director of the Council for Court Excellence. "We need to get citizens to answer the call."
Mr. Harahan said the court needs to upgrade and update its mail delivery of the first summons. And, there should be more correlation with the jury selection for U.S. District Court and grand jury.
After the crackdown began, several residents called the Council for Court Excellence to complain that they were summoned for duty too often and on other juries.
Although Superior Court jury duty is limited to once in two years, a federal employee and D.C. resident complained that he had served four times on juries and 24 months on a federal grand jury in 10 years, Mr. Harahan said.

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