At the Lake: Jury seats need filling
May 30, 2007
Here’s a riddle: What is one of the cornerstones of America’s justice system that most don’t appreciate unless they really need it?
The answer? A jury.
As El Dorado County Superior Court in South Lake Tahoe waits to celebrate Jury Appreciation Week with an actual jury, court officials are taking the time to remind people that financial punishments may be levied on those who ignore jury summons.
About every month Judge Stephen Valentine has a calendar in both South Lake Tahoe and Placerville filled with people who ignored jury summons.
“Our motive is just to get people to show up,” Valentine said.
Those who do not go to the courthouse for possible jury duty are sent a postcard of their misdeed and asked to explain their absence, Valentine said. A fine up to $500 could be imposed.
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A pool of potential jury members is netted from the Department of Motor Vehicles database and registered voters. The pool is reset every year. Service is only required once a year.
Valentine said he hears excuses from jury jumpers saying they’re not the ones who check the mail in the household to just plain forgetting.
“It’s inconvenient, but so is life and liberty,” Valentine said.
The court’s jury coordinator, Derinda Lambie, said “it’s kind of feast or famine” on the number of jury trials held in South Lake Tahoe each year.
Jury summons in the summer outnumber those in the winter when residents are not off taking vacations, Lambie said. Most trials are settled before they reach the jury phase, but officials said that’s no excuse to ignore a summons. The number of summonses also varies on the length of the trial and the publicity it has received.
“Without (jurors) we don’t have a great system of justice,” Valentine said.
Valentine said his South Lake Tahoe calendar hovers around 50, while the number in Placerville is higher.
There hasn’t been a jury trial in May, hence no jury to lavish attention upon for Jury Appreciation Week. The next one will be treated with goodies ” both food and trinkets.
“With our small community we really do appreciate those people who take the time to come. It really makes a difference,” said Selina Kostelnik, operations manager for the court system.
The 8th Annual SMG Tourism Conference at Lake Tahoe will kick off today at Embassy Suites from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with topics that are expected to expand the vocabulary of marketers.
At 9:30 today, Dave LaPlante, chief executive officer of Twelve Horses, will focus on how social marketing can help promote a destination’s character.
Four hours later, geotourism will be highlighted. The keynote speaker, Jonathan Tourtellot, is director of sustainable destinations at the National Geographic Society. Geotourism is essentially the study of how tourism supports the social fabric and culture of a place.
The tourism conference, put on by Strategic Marketing Group in South Lake Tahoe, has added a geotourism dinner cruise with a panel discussion moderated by the Geographic Society.