7

In the comments on this question about being on a jury when a trial could run into Shabbat, somebody brought up the point that it's generally not hard to avoid jury duty. And, in my experience, lots of people try to "get out" of jury duty when they receive a summons, usually successfully. I am wondering if such avoidance is permitted under halacha. (I am not talking about deferring service, for example to avoid yom tov conflicts, but not serving at all.)

For purposes of this question, assume the following:

  • In the US (I won't speak for other countries), being judged by a jury of impartial "regular people" (not judges, not lawyers, etc) is an important part of the justice system. If everybody avoided jury duty the system would break down. On the other hand, there are more eligible jurors than are actually needed, most of the time.

  • If you are randomly selected for jury duty you're required to serve, and possibly be seated on a jury, unless you can demonstrate a significant hardship.

  • Jury candidates are usually asked questions by lawyers for both sides and/or the presiding judge. Jury candidates must affirm that they will tell the truth. Some of these questions are pretty subjective ("do you feel you could be fair under such-and-such conditions", etc). Giving the "wrong" answers generally leads to you not being chosen.

I assume that outright lying about either hardship or impartiality would be a problem. But we can sometimes tell ourselves little half-truths that might or might not count as lying -- gee, I'd like to get out of jury duty, so maybe I would resent being stuck on the jury and that would affect my ability to judge the case fairly, and therefore I can say "no I can't be impartial".

What does halacha say about avoiding jury duty? Is it permissible to dodge participating in the court system? Contrariwise, is there any sort of obligation to participate, and dodging would be forbidden?

I have heard that one should not use the secular courts for disputes among Jews (we should use a beit din), but I'm not asking about participating as a litigant. I'm asking about participating in the secular court system. Possibly we shouldn't because we have our own; possibly we should because it supports a Noachide justice system; possibly there are many other considerations.

  • 3
  • +1 for an interesting practical question. I think that a number of notable Rabbanim (possibly R Feinstein among them) noted that the jury system of the U.S. court obeys the requirements of 7 Mitzvot B'nai Noach for establishing a court system. Thus, it may be an actual halachic requirement for a Jew called as a U.S. citizen that he MUST serve, as, it may actually be a mitzvah to do so. I have research these sources further. – DanF Jun 23 '15 at 2:10
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Jun 30 '15 at 1:36
7

R. David Zvi Hoffmann (Shut. Melamed Le'Hoil 1:42) was asked whether a G-d fearing Jew is obligated to do "everything possible" to evade service in the German army, "where he is forced to violate shabasos and yamim tovim." His conclusion, after detailed analysis, is that he is not obligated to, and it is better not to, as if this becomes known it will cause desecration of G-d's Name and trouble for the Jews, "for the enemies of the Jews say that the Jews do not obey the government's laws".

Obviously not an exact parallel, for a number of reasons, but something to consider nevertheless.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .