Courts losing patience with jury no-shows

Penalties for employers that don’t grant leave can include fines of $10,000, jail for 3 months
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 04/25/2011

Nearly 300 prospective jurors did not show up when summoned for the Jordan Manners murder trial in Toronto in March. (Manners was a Toronto high school student shot at school in 2007.) Almost 50 failed to appear at a Brampton, Ont., murder trial in February. And between 11 per cent and 21 per cent of prospective jurors have avoided appearing for duty in 42 different Brampton trials between September 2010 and January 2011, according to findings by Justice Casey Hill.

“If (so many) individuals are not showing up without providing any reason, then that’s a serious systemic problem,” said Elizabeth Traynor, a partner at Siskinds law firm in London, Ont. “Somehow, the message is not getting out to people that this is a fundamental aspect of their civic duty.”

People might not be showing up for jury duty due to work-related pressures, said Traynor. A person with an admirable work ethic might feel she is unable to miss even a couple of weeks to serve jury duty, she said. If this is the case, a request can be made upon immediately receiving the summon, in writing, to the court office with an explanation of the difficulty, said Brendan Crawley, spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General. Then it’s up to the judge to grant exclusion or not.