Sevier County Circuit Court Judge Rex Henry Ogle plans to meet with two groups on Monday, Nov. 7, the first day of a new circuit court session.
The tone of each meeting promises to be different, according to Circuit Court Clerk Janette Ballard.
At 9 a.m., Ogle will meet with county residents who have been summoned to serve on this session’s jury pool. He’ll discuss roles and responsibilities of being a juror with members of this group, and he’ll likely commend them for their willingness to serve.
That afternoon at 1, Ogle may share a few pointed words with about 75 county residents who would’ve been in the morning meeting if only they hadn’t ignored or refused their jury assignment.
Ballard said residents are mailed notices when it is their turn for jury service. After three attempts to deliver a notice, the postal service returns it to the circuit court office.
“A lot of them came back (from the postal service) unclaimed,” Ballard said, “but we did have a few that were flat-out refused.”
Ogle and the circuit court responded by issuing a “show-cause” notice to these residents, Ballard said. They must now report to the circuit courtroom for the 1 p.m. meeting.
“The judge is going to ask them to show cause as to why they didn’t accept the summons,” Ballard said. “We’ve had this problem for years and nothing really has been done about it. We’ve let it slide in the past but it’s reached the point to where we can no longer ignore it.”
A typical circuit court session lasts four months, which Ballard said is unsettling to some residents. “That upsets some people because they think they’re going to be out of work for four months,” she said.
However, jurors aren’t required to report for service every day because cases are often settled out of court, said Ballard, who records a daily message on the circuit court hotline that informs jurors whether or not they need to report the following day.
Sevier Countians serving on the jury pool are paid $12 per day on days they report for jury service, regardless of whether they’re actually called to serve on a jury.
Ballard has a hard time understanding people who try to skip out of jury service.
“I always tell people, ‘If you were on trial, would you not want the best people to be on that jury?’” Ballard said.