Montana judge calls out jury duty absconders
THOMPSON FALLS — A judge in northwestern Montana threatened fines and required letters of apology from nine people who failed to show up when they were called for jury duty this month.
"We had all the people assembled for the trial, including one witness who had traveled from the East Coast, and we almost didn't get to trial," said District Judge James Manley.
Of the 48 Sanders County citizens called for jury duty, a dozen were excused and another dozen failed to show up.
"I think most of us who have worked in the legal system for decades believe it's the fairest system there is, but it only works if people take their responsibility seriously," Manley said. "That's why I got on my high horse and said some things."
Manley ordered the no-shows to appear and explain why they should not be held in contempt of court.
Four met with Manley prior to their order to appear and were ordered to write letters of apology. A fifth also satisfied his obligation early. Manley accepted the excuses of three who appeared before him, but found the other four in contempt. He said he would waive a $100 fine if they, too, wrote letters of apology.
"People should see how hard these clerks of court work to set up jury trials," Manley said. "It's a monumental task. But if a lot of people don't show up, it doesn't work."