Why Do People Detest Jury Duty? (Hint: It’s Compulsory)

Several bloggers have been kicking around the question of why people so often dislike serving on juries even though it’s educational, a potentially valuable civic contribution, a break from routine, a chance to get reading done, and so forth. Matt Yglesias got the ball rolling at Slate by wondering why others don’t share his happiness at being called and Josh Barro, Stephen Bainbridge, Glenn Reynolds, and many Andrew Sullivan readers have been glad to enlighten him. (Hint: the process is compulsory.)

I wrote about the question some time back at Reason:

When they move from room to room, they go as a group, escorted by men in uniform,” writes Stephen Adler of his subjects. “They are supposed to follow directions, ask no questions, make no demands.” In cases where their captivity is prolonged, some suffer serious financial losses, while others are unable to nurse an ailing spouse or fly to a loved one’s deathbed. “It was the closest I’ve ever been to being in jail,” one woman said.

Such can be the experience of those called to serve on that reputedly all-powerful body, the jury. For many of us, no doubt, the potential excitement of acting a part in a real courtroom drama outweighs any indignation at the compulsory aspect of the adventure. Still, jury duty helps point up one of our legal system’s less endearing features: its penchant for casually inflicting the kind of harms for which it would demand the most stringent punishment were they to be inflicted by anyone else.

Whole thing here.