Jury duty, that beloved civic rite known to eat up as many as three days even if you're not selected to serve, is about to get even longer. Starting January 1, Missouri judges will have to allow lawyers extra time to look up the litigation history of potential jurors on Case.net, the state court website.
The new rule, which will apply to the civil courts only, could add an extra hour or two to the already delay-fraught jury-selection process, but the Missouri Supreme Court, which issued the ruling last week, says it will save time in the long run.
Last March, after a six-day medical malpractice trial before the high court, the plaintiff's attorneys discovered that one of the jurors neglected to mention during jury selection that she had been sued three times in the past year, once for personal injury. The entire case had to be retried.
Reports the Columbia Tribune:
Involvement in litigation does not preclude anyone from serving on a jury, but lawyers for both sides typically inquire to help them decide which people to challenge. If someone has filed a personal injury lawsuit in the past, he will likely be more sympathetic to a plaintiff, said John Wallach, a personal injury lawyer in Clayton.
There might be many reasons why prospective jurors don't speak up, lawyers said. Some might have forgotten being sued years before or feel embarrassed about being a party to a sexual harassment case.
"Some people may be hesitant to get up in front of a room of 50 people and say they've been sued," Wallach said.
Many in the state judicial system feel the new ruling will only enhance the negative feelings many citizens harbor toward jury duty.
"They never like [waiting]," Mike Devereaux, a St. Louis jury supervisor, told the Tribune. "The biggest gripe I get from jurors is about sitting around waiting. The jurors are usually unaware of what the delays are about."
Boone County Circuit Court Judge Gene Hamilton was a bit more stringent: "This shows the ineptitude of the state Supreme Court."
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