Jury trials have been back in session since March 1, and Clerk of Court Henry Gupton wants it to stay that way. But, he said, there’s one thing that could have a negative effect on the return to a smoothly running courts system: Vance County residents are not responding to their summons to appear for jury duty.
The official letters, which begin with “You are hereby summoned to personally appear for jury service” is not open for interpretation. It is a legal summons to appear, and when the recipient does not respond to the letter, it could result in a sheriff’s deputy knocking at your door wanting to know why.
Gupton said the summons has options and directions on it for the potential juror to follow – individuals can phone, send an email or return by mail their response. The important thing is to respond to, not ignore, the letter that comes in the mail. “Our situation is…we do not have enough people responding to the summons,” Gupton told WIZS News Tuesday.
Included in the summons is a list of questions for the recipient to answer, as well as how to be excused from jury duty, Gupton said. The presiding judge could hold the individual in contempt if he or she does not respond. “We are not trying to push anyone in to anything they do not feel comfortable doing during these times,” he said. “However, we do need their help in administering justice in our Courts here in Vance County.”
According to the summons, “North Carolina law provides that jury service is the solemn obligation of all qualified citizens. Failure to appear may result in an order for arrest and a fine (pursuant to N.C.G.S. 9-13).”
There are several Vance County Superior Court jury sessions scheduled in the coming weeks, and juror summons have been issued, according to Sheriff Curtis Brame. Currently, there is an “unusually large percentage of persons summoned for jury service that have not responded to the summons. Those who do not respond to the jury summons may be personally served by the Sheriff to ensure sufficient jurors for each session,” Brame said in a statement Tuesday.
Brame advised that anyone who has received a juror summons to “respond immediately in one of the methods specified on the summons.” He added that individuals also could phone the sheriff’s office ( 252.738.2200) to acknowledge receipt of the summons.
Gupton said it was unfortunate that he had to issue a press release reminding the public of their civic duty. “We are trying to get back to somewhat of a norm with our courts and we must have jurors to help us administer justice,” he said.