LORETTA CARRIER of Bowie was shopping last Tuesday when two deputy sheriffs stopped her on the street. After a few preliminary questions, one of them congratulated her on becoming an instant juror. "Right now? In blue jeans and dirty tennis shoes?" she asked, pointing at her bag of groceries.Now, the deputies said, explaining that a judge had sent them out to round up 15 or 20 jurors off the streets and they were only doing their jobs.
Mrs. Carrier was not alone in being hauled to the courthouse. She was joined by other shoppers and businessmen who suddenly found themselves impressed for jury duty. Judge James H. Taylor had exhausted the pool of duly summoned jurors immediately available for a case he wanted to try and couldn't -- or, more precisely, wouldn't -- wait.
None of the citizens fetched from the streets by the deputies actually served on Judge Taylor's jury. The pool of potential jurors who had been routinely called to serve that day had been replenished by the ending of another trial before the judge got around to filling out his panel.
One could say, we suppose, that this was a demonstration of the American judicial system at its finest -- a judge eager to get on with the business at hand and citizens who were pulled away from their normal routines to perform the important civic duty of administering justice. But, somehow, that doesn't ring true. Justice would have been served as well, and just as speedily, if Judge Taylor had not decided arbitrarily to interrupt the lives of 15 or 20 ordinary citizens.
The judge quite correctly pointed out that he had the power to do what he did. Maryland law permits judges to gather jurors wherever they can be found if there is a shortage. And what happened Tuesday is not unique; it used to happen in Upper Marlboro all the time.
But having power and using it wisely are two different things. Jury duty is already regarded as so onerous by most citizens that courts, and judges, ought to treat jurors -- and potential jurors -- as generously and delicately as possible. Ordering citizens dragged away from (or with) their grocery bags, dirty tennis shoes and blue jeans is hardly a way to create respect for the administration of justice or, for that matter, for judges.