Andrew Ferguson

  • February 21, 2013
    Why Jury Duty Matters
    A Citizen's Guide to Constitutional Action
    Andrew Guthrie Ferguson

    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.”

  • December 22, 2011

    by Nicole Flatow

    Law professor Andrew Ferguson has argued that citizens should perceive their duty to serve on a jury as a civic duty equivalent to voting.

    “This ideal of civic participation, the idea of we ordinary citizens coming to decide things just like they came to vote for the legislators was fundamental to the founders,” said Ferguson, a professor at the University of District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law, during a recent American Constitution Society event.

    But for the time being, many Americans are apathetic about this constitutional right.

    In comes Paul Butler, a law professor at Georgetown University who argues in The New York Times this week that jurors can play a particularly important role in making our laws fairer through the constitutional doctrine of “jury nullification.”

    The idea of the doctrine is that when jurors vote on a defendant’s guilt or innocence, they are also voting on the fairness of the underlying law, or prosecutors’ enforcement of that law.

    So if you think it is wrong to prosecute a person for marijuana possession, or if you think a particular prosecution is racially biased or inappropriate, you should vote “not guilty” in a marijuana possession trial, regardless of whether you think the person committed the crime, Butler suggests.