Consider it your calling

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You don’t have to be on the wrong side of the law to earn a stern rebuke from a judge.

It happened in Pictou County several months ago, and now a similar dressing down comes from a Halifax judge, not to a convicted person but to those called for jury duty who didn’t show up.

As a result of 110 no-shows out of 280 summonsed for a jury trial last September, Judge Glen McDougall in Halifax ordered 15 of them to be tracked down. They were to appear before him Thursday and explain their reasons for being absent.

Theoretically they could be in real trouble. Those who ignore the call can be fined $1,000 or even receive a jail sentence. Although, commenting on this, Alan Young, a professor at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, described it more as a matter of accounting for yourself – akin to getting hauled down to the principal’s office.

Similarly, Supreme Court Justice Peter Rosinski, in Pictou last September, chastised eight people for the same reason. This was after 31 local people failed to show up for selection for a jury trial. He called them in – or at least those whom sheriffs could locate afterward – to his courtroom to explain themselves. Excuses ranged from having misplaced dates, to being unable to leave work, to just plain forgetting.

Serving on a jury, admittedly, could turn into a long commitment. But keep in mind consideration is taken for the person who won’t be compensated by an employer and simply can’t afford to contribute the time required.

We love to complain about our justice system, with many people claiming it’s somehow too slack and letting people walk free who shouldn’t.

But these recent examples are a good reminder of what justice is about – society as a whole dealing with those who have wronged someone or are considered a danger. Playing a role in seeing justice served – a peer of the accused – while it might strike some as a temporary inconvenience, is a duty. It’s part of seeing the job done.

Geographic location: Pictou County, Halifax, Toronto

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