The Third Branch
Juror appreciation celebrated statewide
Counties throughout Wisconsin celebrated Juror Appreciation Month during September with a variety of activities intended to thank jurors and to acknowledge the importance of their role in our system of justice.
During 2012, 82,895 people reported for jury duty at Wisconsin courthouses. Of those, 21,080 served as jurors. The theme of Juror Appreciation Month is "Jurors Serve Justice; Justice Serves Us All." This year, the theme was formally recognized in a proclamation issued by Gov. Scott Walker and in citations from the state Senate and Assembly.
In Dane County, Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson and Court of Appeals Judges Brian W. Blanchard and JoAnne F. Kloppenburg visited with Dane County jurors and thanked them for their service. Dane County Clerk of Circuit Court Carlo Esqueda distributed tote bags and had a banner hung in the courthouse lobby.
In Sauk County, Clerk of Circuit Court Vicki Meister wrote a letter to the editor, thanking the thousands of Sauk County residents who are asked to serve on jury duty.
"Because of your willingness, commitment and support, you protect everyone's constitutional right to a fair, representative trial. Everyone in the court system recognizes jury service is often an inconvenience to those asked to serve. Sauk County residents take this responsibility of citizenship seriously and are to be commended for their participation…," Meister wrote in the letter published in the Wisconsin Dells Events newspaper.
In Shawano County, officials combined juror appreciation activities with the quarterly evening jury orientation session, said Clerk of Circuit Court Sue Krueger. The courtroom was decorated with fall colors and banners thanking jurors for coming and for future jury service. As usual, the courtroom was filled with interested "potential" jurors who participated in a question and answer period after initial orientation.
The clerk's staff provided home-baked desserts, soda and water, Krueger said.
In La Crosse County, the courthouse was decorated with posters honoring jurors and court staff wore juror appreciation pins.
"We want every juror to feel appreciated and to know how much we value their time and commitment to our system of justice," La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Ramona A. Gonzalez was quoted as saying in coverage provided by the La Crosse Tribune newspaper.
There were 2,832 people summoned to serve on 36 jury trials in La Crosse County during 2012, including an 18-day double homicide trial, the longest criminal trial in the county's history.
In Manitowoc County, Clerk of Circuit Court Lynn Zigmunt wrote a letter to the editor, thanking jurors for their service and for the support of employers.
Forest County Deputy Clerk of Court Deb Webb, former Deputy Clerk of Court Alyson Bocek, Clerk of Circuit Court Penny Carter, District Attorney Charles Simono and Deputy Clerk of Circuit Court Chris Geske participated in the "Brush Run Parade" in Crandon as part of Juror Appreciation Month activities.
"I often hear from friends, family and acquaintances when they receive the ‘dreaded jury summons' in the mail. It always seems to bring a lot of apprehension from people at first. But once someone has gone through the actual process of being summoned, selected and serving as a juror, I think their feelings and views change," Zigmunt wrote.
In Marathon County, Clerk of Circuit Court Diane Sennholz joined circuit court Judges Jill N. Falstad, Gregory B. Huber, Gregory E. Grau, Michael K. Moran, and Lamont K. Jacobson in writing a letter to the editor that was published in local newspapers.
"Jurors learn that it is not only judges, lawyers and members of government that make the important decisions in the system. In fact, arguably the most important determinations are made by citizens who carry out the great burden of reaching just, fair and conscientious decisions in the cases they are cosent to sit on…," the letter stated in part.
In Oneida County, Clerk of Circuit Court Brenda Behrle recorded public service announcements with local radio stations and sent a letter cosigned by three judges to the editor of local newspapers papers.
"In honoring the excellent service and commitment of citizens who perform jury duty, we hope to reinforce public confidence in the jury system, improve communication with jurors and employers and publicize an important and positive message about jury service," the letter read.
"We want every juror to feel appreciated and to know how much we value their time and commitment to our system of justice - thank you for doing your duty!" The letter was signed by Behrle and Oneida County Circuit Court Judges Patrick F. O'Melia and Michael H. Bloom.
In Racine County, Clerk of Circuit Court Roseanne Lee used the occasion to announce an upgrade of the county's jury duty system to include juror updates online or by text.
"We want to make serving as easy and convenient for people as possible. I think making these options available will add a dimension to help people meet their obligation and to keep the courts running efficiently," Lee was quoted as saying in The (Racine) Journal Times.
The upgrade made Racine County the 20th county in the state to provide the service.
In Forest County, officials, including District Atty. Charles Simono and Clerk of Circuit Court Penny Carter and their staffs, walked in the popular "Brush Run Parade" in Crandon.
Along the parade route, they handed out pens and notepads that said "Forest County Appreciates Their Jurors."
They also hung a banner in the courtroom stating, "We Appreciate Our Jurors" and provided gym bags with the lady justice symbol on them to all jurors that served in September.
Forest County Circuit Court Judge Leon D. Stenz said, "Many people have sacrificed so that Americans can enjoy the right to a jury trial."
"Most of the citizens of Forest County recognize that by appearing and agreeing to serve as jurors, they honor that sacrifice. Without the service of our jurors, the system of justice we enjoy simply would not work," Stenz said.
As an added bonus, jurors were treated to Carter's homemade cookies. The treats proved so popular that she received several follow-up requests, along with glowing praise, from jurors for the recipe.
If you would like to make jurors in your county happy, here's the recipe:
Peanut butter/chocolate chip/walnut cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. soda
1 ½ cups chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped walnuts
Mix all ingredients, except chocolate chips and walnuts, together in large mixing bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts. Form into 1 inch balls, bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Makes approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.