by Professor Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, assistant professor of law at the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia.
Every year approximately 30 million American citizens get an invitation to constitutional action in the form of a jury summons. Most dread this core constitutional obligation. Forgotten is the jury’s connection to American history from the Declaration of Independence to the Civil Rights Movement. Ignored are the meaningful, foundational lessons of citizen-jurors over two centuries.
Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Constitutional Action (NYU Press 2013) was written to change that negative reaction to jury duty. This book is the first book written for jurors on jury duty and seeks to inspire an appreciation of this important American institution. It is a book that will make jury service personally meaningful and will strengthen constitutional literacy in America.
This book does much of what ACS does – translate constitutional ideas so that ordinary people can understand the importance of the Constitution. As a trial lawyer for nine years, I watched jurors every day in the courthouse. I witnessed how they missed the constitutional value of jury service. This book was my gift back to those citizens, and to the millions of future jurors who will serve in the coming years. It is a how-to book for democratic practice. It is a primer on constitutional principles. It is an argument for reclaiming the central place juries have played in our society. Professor Neil Vidmar wrote, “Copies should be placed in the jury assembly rooms of every courthouse.” Professor Nancy Marder, Director of the Jury Center at Chicago-Kent College of Law recommended, “Every court should give prospective jurors a copy of this book so that they will understand the jury’s integral role in our democracy.”