Supreme Court Begins

With the change of season, the US Supreme Court swings into session this week.  A statutory tradition, the first Monday in October is the beginning of the new term, which holds issues of abortion, birth control, and race, among other matters. The Judiciary Act of 1789 created the US Supreme Court, and it got organized in 1790, but not until 1935 did the head of our third branch of government finally had its own building. While the Constitution provided for the Judicial Branch, it did not give it a place to reside.  Thus for centuries the high court remained a homeless branch of government, sheltered in whatever municipal structure was available until William Taft pushed for a standalone ceiling of justice.  (Taft, non-coincidentally, was the only President also to serve as Chief Justice.)  The cornerstone of the high court was set in 1932 by Herbert Hoover, and the building opened in 1935. This year the Supreme Court celebrates 80 years of justice under its own roof.   Read More

Jury Duty – What’s Your Excuse?

The dog ate my jury summons? Tourette’s Syndrome? Allergic to the courtroom carpet fibers? The dog will bark if I am gone during the day? SpaceX has stranded me on the Space Station? Dated one of the attorneys trying the case? Dated the judge? Dated the defendant? I am the Governor of the State of Florida? My dog is the Governor of the State of Florida? While some people have a legitimate qualification to be excused from jury duty, others do not.  Furthermore, some excuses may be more effective than others to get your fined and held in contempt of court. On the other hand, jury duty allows you to have active participation in the fair administration of justice. Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  Jury Duty lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your service as a juror makes that right possible.  As a juror, you can change the outcome of a trial.   Read More

Superhero of Justice: Jury Duty

Qualifications for Jury Duty include the following: Breathing At least 18 years old Florida driver’s license or state identification Legal resident of Florida and the county Show up when you are summoned Even if you meet all the qualifications, you might not be selected to serve, or you may have a reason to be excused.  Either way, you still need to respond to a Jury Summons. Many people would rather be at the beach rather than in court, especially if they are the ones facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  Jury Duty lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your service as a juror makes that right possible. You do not need a cape, but when you serve on a jury, you do your part to be a superhero of justice.  Thank you, Jurors.   Read More

Welcome to Jury Duty

Many are called, but few are chosen for Jury Duty.  You may be excused if you are 70 years old, pregnant, and the Governor or Lieutenant Governor (but you still have to request to be excused).  Otherwise, if you are a US citizen, 18 years old, have a Florida driver’s license or state identification, and are a resident of Florida you could be asked to sit on a jury. Jury Duty is an opportunity for the Judicial Branch to showcase legal procedure to the public.  It is live, reality courtroom drama, and if you are selected, then you have a reserved seat up front for the trial. As the Florida Bar points out regarding jury duty:  “Attendance is essential to the fair administration of justice.” Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  Jury Duty lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your service as a juror makes that right possible.  As a juror, you can change the outcome of a trial. As a Florida licensed driver or a […] Read More

Today is Law Day, Commemorating the Magna Carta

St. Augustine turns 450 this year, and the Magna Carta turns 800 years old.  Handwritten in Latin in 1215 England, this “Great Charter of Liberties” inspired many basic rights of America today, including due process, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.  It embodies the idea that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law.  Thus this year’s Law Day theme is “Magna Carta:  Symbol of Freedom Under the law.” Law Day is May 1 every year.  The event officially started in 1961 to mark a commitment to the rule of law in our nation, a notion that is now eight centuries old and counting. Happy Law Day!  Happy Due Process Everyday!   Read More

Cash Prizes for Florida Bar Video Contest 2015

Attention Florida high school students, the Florida Bar is awarding $500 to the first place winner and $250 to the second place winner in their YouTube Contest.  You have to create a 2 to 4 minute video based on a topic from the Legal Guide for New Adults (available free online at http://www.floridabar.org/tfb/TFBConsum.nsf/48e76203493b82ad852567090070c9b9/34557641d4c2f7c885256b2f006c5753?OpenDocument).  The contest deadline is April 15, 2015.  For a complete list of rules and details, go to the entry form at http://www.floridabar.org/TFB/TFBResources.nsf/Attachments/19D031CB38E30D4A852579AD00501396/$FILE/Entry%20Form.pdf?OpenElement.   Read More

Importance of Jury Duty

Jury duty is not always glamorous, but it is an important part of our Justice System, both for the legal process and for the people affected by it. Jury Duty is an opportunity for the Judicial Branch to showcase legal procedure to the public.  It is live, reality courtroom drama, and if you are selected to sit on a jury, then you have a reserved seat up front for the trial. Furthermore, jury duty also lets you help decide the fate of people in your community.  The Sixth Amendment gives us the right to trial by jury, and your voter’s registration puts you on the list of potential jurors.  Registration requirements include:  US citizenship, at least 18 years old, Florida driver’s license or state identification, and a resident of Florida in the respective county. As the Florida Bar points out regarding jury duty:  “Attendance is essential to the fair administration of justice.” If you are not a registered voter in Florida, please visit the Florida Division of Elections at http://doe.dos.state.fl.us/voter-registration/index.shtml, where you can register to vote, check the status of your registration, and learn more about voter registration in Florida.   Read More

Top TV Script: The Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791.  Who knew that two centuries later it would make for such great TV, winning Emmy’s and Golden Globe awards on shows like Law & Order, Boston Legal, and The Good Wife?  Those scripts would not have much plot without the Bill of Rights. The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.  They were proposed in 1789, and have been in force since December 15, 1791.  In honor of those rights, we celebrate today as Bill of Rights Day.  While you can enjoy your Constitutional rights every day, you can mark today by watching a television courtroom drama or try out this Bill of Rights Bingo from the Constitucion Center: http://constitutioncenter.org/media/files/Bill_of_Rights_Bingo.pdf Read More

Remember to Vote

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office.” – Aesop Today is Election Day—remember to vote!  As a registered voter, you can make a difference in the legislative branch of government on Election Day…and you can make a difference in the judicial branch by sitting on a jury for your peers. Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  A registered voter can change the outcome of a trial. While a voters’ registration is great for participating in political elections, it is also vital for the fair administration of justice. Read More

Jury Duty Scam

The St. Johns County Clerk of Courts is warning against a jury duty scam.  It goes something like this:  you get a phone call from somebody posing as a court employee informing you that you have missed jury duty, and they ask you for personal information for verification.  They may even say that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. It is better to serve jury duty than to serve a scammer.  Do not provide your personal information to a scammer. They call looking for information like your Social Security Number and date of birth, which they can use to steal your identity.  According to the St. Johns County Clerk of Courts website (http://www.clk.co.st-johns.fl.us/jury/jury.html), “Clerk’s Office employees within the Jury Management division never make such calls.”  The initial jury duty notifications as well as follow-up notices are sent via the US Postal Service. Read More