Judge irked with those who ignore call to serve

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AUBURN – Four men and five women who failed to report for jury duty have themselves been summoned to court.

The nine people were picked in January for a jury pool at Androscoggin County Superior Court and would have heard cases going to trial that month.

Except they never showed up.

They are scheduled to appear before a judge at the end of this month. If they actually show up this time, they likely will get a scolding. They could find themselves opening their wallets, even locked behind bars.

Maine law allows for penalties of up to $100 in fines and/or three days in jail for each day a juror fails to show up in court.

The charge is criminal contempt of court, said Justice Thomas Delahanty II. In his 22 years on the bench, he has only once put somebody away for shirking their civic duty.

It was in Oxford County. A man summoned for grand jury duty told the court clerk it was a waste of his time. So Delahanty gave him time to think about it – a couple of days in jail.

Many folks who are called to court don’t realize the seriousness of the consequences if they brush it off.

One man in Cumberland County called the clerk’s office to say he would send one of his workers. When he was told about the possible penalties, he said he would be there, Delahanty said.

“As far as I know, he came in.”

In that court, people who skip jury duty are routinely called to account. In smaller courts, clerks round up the shirkers as time allows, Delahanty said.

A pool of prospective jurors is culled from a random selection of driver’s licenses. Of those, a final list is picked from those who return questionnaires showing they qualify to sit on a jury.

Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Carl Bradford is expected to ask the nine AWOL jurors why they didn’t report to court. Most of the time excuses range from never having received notice to family emergencies. They likely will be put on the next jury list.

Although Bradford has the option of slapping them with more serious penalties, the nine people will have a right to a jury trial.

Finding a sympathetic jury is unlikely, Delahanty said. “I don’t know of anybody who’s taken that opportunity.”

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