Headlines archive

2017

Wisconsin jurors help ensure justice for all

Madison, Wisconsin - September 1, 2017

By Judge James C. Babler
Barron County Circuit Court

The right to a jury trial is a fundamental constitutional right that distinguishes our country from the rest of the world. In fact, 95-percent of the world's jury trials are held here in the United States, yet we only have 5-percent of the world’s population.

Trial by jury is a right that is protected in both the U.S. and Wisconsin Constitutions. It is also the duty of the citizens who live in Wisconsin to help the courts protect this important feature of our justice system.

Juries serve several important purposes:

  1. They decide the facts in a case as presented by evidence and testimony at criminal and civil trials;
  2. They provide a means by which community values and sentiments are reflected in the Court process; and
  3. They foster the public’s acceptance of legal decisions.

However, this right could not exist if citizens were not willing to serve as jurors. Jury duty, along with voting, are the primary means by which citizens participate in the work of our government. Our nation does not require much from us other than paying taxes, serving in the military during times of draft, and serving on juries. It is indeed a small price to pay for living in a free society.

Jurors are selected randomly from Department of Transportation records of persons with drivers' licenses and state issued identification cards. Failure to respond to fill out the juror questionnaire or report for jury duty may result in penalties for contempt of court.

Potential jurors may be excused from serving for good cause. Significant medical problems are a valid excuse but loss of income is not considered a valid excuse. Previously scheduled vacations or doctor appointments are valid reasons to move your jury duty to a different month.

The number of potential jurors summoned to a courthouse varies by county. In Barron County, for example, approximately 30 potential jurors are called in for scheduled jury trials. Generally, jurors are required to be available for two weeks and serve no more than five days during that time. Most of the trials held in Barron County last one day.

The qualifications to be a juror are simple: you must be 18 years of age or older; a U. S. citizen; understand English; and live in the county where a trial is to be held. While some citizens are apprehensive about jury duty, most find it a rewarding experience.

In recognition of the citizens who have answered the call to jury duty, Wisconsin courts have designated September as Juror Appreciation Month. The executive and legislative branches of state government have shared in this recognition. It highlights the honor and importance of serving on a jury. It further recognizes the personal and financial sacrifice many jurors make in order to serve. Our justice system could not work without these citizen jurors.

Back to headlines archive 2017