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LWV-Hawaii Legislative Testimony

HB 386

Relating to
Courts (Jury Exemptions)

House Committee on Judiciary (JUD) - chair: Luke, vice chair: Oshiro

Tuesday, January 31, 2006, 2:00 p.m. Room 325

Testifier: Jean Aoki

Click here to view HB386

The League of Women Voters very strongly supports HB 386 which would repeal all exemptions for jury service except for a few, two of which are perfectly legitimate, we think.

Someone who has already served within the last year, or someone who lives too far away, do have legitimate excuses for exemption. Since this is a voluntary exemption, not a mandatory one, I will not charge age discrimination for the third category of allowed exemptions, those who are seventy years of age or older.

Every other category of people should not be given blanket exemptions just for belonging to those categories. The fact is, judges have liberal discretion in granting exemptions for any period of time. If you are planning a trip, or have a doctor’s appointment, or are going through a difficult period in your life, or whatever, you can get a temporary exemption. A doctor can have many surgeries scheduled for a particular period of time, a student would miss too much class time because a particular case promises to require much time to resolve.

While the number of cases that actually go to jury trial is minimal --according to a report from the American Bar Association, fewer than 2% of cases tried in federal courts involve a jury, and less that 1% of cases in state courts go to juries for resolution,-- the right to a trial by a jury of your peers remains a bedrock principle of our democracy. It can be seen as power to the people, as opposed to power to those in positions of power. The availability of the system is a comforting one whether one ever expects to use it or not. While there are flaws in the system as there are in almost any system, the right to trial by jury is one favored by most Americans.

It stands to reason that if we want to preserve a system that we cherish, we need to contribute toward its health. If we keep on exempting whole categories of people whether by profession or age or perceived indispensability to society outside of the courtroom, we are saying that that system is not very important, and we are contributing toward its being discredited and its eventual demise.

We urge you to adopt HB 386 and to reject HB 872 which would keep on expanding the categories of the exempt.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify on HB 386.


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