Philadelphia courts plan crackdown on those who skirt jury duty

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 People raise their hands to affirm they would attend jury duty in January 2012 in response to Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, as he addresses residents who did not show up for jury duty in Tampa, Fla. The group of 246 people got a stern lecture on responsibility and a civics lessons from Judge Holder. (St. Petersburg Times, Skip O' Rourke/AP Photo, pool)

People raise their hands to affirm they would attend jury duty in January 2012 in response to Circuit Judge Gregory Holder, as he addresses residents who did not show up for jury duty in Tampa, Fla. The group of 246 people got a stern lecture on responsibility and a civics lessons from Judge Holder. (St. Petersburg Times, Skip O' Rourke/AP Photo, pool)

Philadelphia’s court system is working on a plan to make sure everyone does their jury duty — or else risk a penalty of community service or jail. 

Only 13 percent of those called for jury duty are showing up in Philadelphia. Beginning next month, Judge John Heron said he will personally go after those who do not respond to the jury summons sent in the mail.

“We are actually receiving jury summons back from individuals with a very impolite expression on the summons face itself,” he said. “One of those words are, well you can go, and I’ll let you fill it in.”

Heron, who presided over a scofflaw court back in the ’90s, said he feels it’s time to revive it in order to send a clear message about the importance of jury duty.

“Not only do we get no response, what we get is a horrendous response showing the acceptance of jury duty isn’t recognized, so we are going to have to use a stick,” he said. “It’s the last thing we want to do.”

The judge says victim-witness intimidation is a concern and there’s a pressing need for more jurors, especially to serve on indicting grand juries.

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