Happy Bill of Rights Day

Two hundred and twenty-four years ago the Bill of Rights was ratified on this day.  The Bill of Rights is made up of those first ten amendments to the United States Constitution, granting things like freedom of speech, jury trial, protection against unreasonable search and seizure, and many other useful rights.  These rights have been around awhile now and they may seem intuitive today, but the history of the Bill of Rights was anything but straightforward. Ironically the Bill of Rights was never actually a “Bill” in Congress.  It got called that because England had passed a “Bill of Rights” a hundred years earlier.  Some felt these rights should have been included in the Constitution.  Others did not think we needed this Bill of Rights at all because states would have their own bill of rights.  Originally there were seventeen amendments, but the Senate rejected some and combined others.  Furthermore, some states did not accept the Bill of Rights right away.  Massachusetts did not get around to ratifying the Bill of Rights until 1939 (two years before President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15 to be “Bill of Rights Day”). Today we celebrate the Bill of Rights, but every day […] 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

Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Runnymede, England is a landmark of American law.  It is where King John affixed his seal to the Magna Carta eight hundred years ago yesterday.  Today the Magna Carta shows up on mugs and t-shirts, as well as in our Bill of Rights. Handwritten in Latin in 1215, this “Great Charter of Liberties” inspired many basic rights, including due process, habeas corpus, and trial by jury.  The Magna Carta embodies the idea that no one, no matter how powerful, is above the law. Because of its big birthday this year and great influence, the American Bar Association and the Magna Carta Trust have launched a new website to tell the story of the significance of the Magna Carta.  You can view the “Magna Carta:  Icon of Liberty” website at http://iconofliberty.com/.   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

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

Your Vote Counts Beyond Election Season

Did you miss the Primary?  About 85% of St. Johns County’s registered voters did.  They may not have cast their ballot on Election Day, but they are still signed up to serve on a jury. Most people would rather be fishing than to be in court, especially if facing legal action against them—that is when they need their peers.  As a registered voter, you can change the outcome of a trial and help decide the fate of people in your community. It is not too late to vote in the General Election later this fall, but you need to have your registration completed by October 6, 2014.  For more information and to register to vote in St. Johns County, go to http://election.dos.state.fl.us/voter-registration/index.shtml. Read More