Jury Duty
Reclaiming Your Political Power and Taking Responsibility
by Michael Singer
July 2012, 242pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-0269-0
$53, £40, 46€, A72
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-0270-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The American jury system is extremely expensive, costing billions of dollars each year and severely impacting the lives of the many millions of Americans who serve in jury trials. Only the vital political roles assigned to the jury within the system of checks and balances that govern our society can justify this cost, but judicial practices of obstructing the jury’s performance of its political roles that have developed in recent years now threaten these political roles.

Written by a legal scholar for the general reader, this book demystifies the institution of the jury and validates its political power, providing valuable insights for the more than 30 million Americans who receive a jury summons each year.

Jury Duty: Reclaiming Your Political Power and Taking Responsibility presents an accessible account of the origins and development of the jury system as well as a comprehensive, stage-by-stage description of a jury trial and of the sentencing procedure in a criminal trial. The work also provides a unique estimate of the cost of the jury system, which is particularly relevant in this continuing era of budget constraints.

Rejecting the justifications usually given for the jury system, the work explains how the political roles of the jury constitute the chief value of the jury system. The basis of these political roles is the unquestionable power of the jury to acquit even a guilty criminal defendant, which allows juries to prevent the enforcement of unjust laws and the imposition of unjust punishments. Accordingly, the book challenges a range of practices that the judiciary has developed to obstruct the jury’s exercise of this power. Most people—even including many lawyers—remain unaware of these practices, but they undermine the value of the jury system to our society. Finally, the book offers an original, thought-provoking analysis of the responsibilities imposed on criminal trial jurors in cases of compelling injustice.

Michael Singer, MA, PhD, JD, is professor at the Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College London, England. He was previously law professor at the University of Pennsylvania and George Washington University, and is a member of the State Bar of California. His many previous publications include The Law of Evidence (with Jack H. Friedenthal) and The Legacy of Positivism. He holds a juris doctor degree from Stanford University, bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Cambridge University, and a doctorate from London University.


"This detailed book would work in judicial process courses as an introduction to the controversy surrounding the jury system. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, graduate students, and professionals." —Choice, February 1, 2013

"Michael Singer has written a thoughtful and comprehensive history of the role of the jury—one that challenges us to appreciate anew the crucial role it plays in our legal system."—Emily Bazelon, Senior Editor at Slate, Truman Capote Fellow for Creative Writing and Law, Yale Law School

"Jury Duty is a sobering reminder of the moral cost of mass incarceration and the responsibility that this places on those of us who have the right and the duty to serve on juries in the United States. Now the humanitarian crisis inside America's prisons gets personal."—Jonathan Simon, Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law, University of California Berkeley School of Law

"Michael Singer provides a sociological analysis of the history, development and costs of the jury system, and describes its political implications. This book is an outstanding scholarly work and should be required reading for all pre-law, criminal justice, and law and society students at all levels."—Larry R. Ridener, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, Pfeiffer University

"The American jury’s unreviewable power to acquit a defendant despite overwhelming evidence of guilt has long intrigued judges, lawyers, legal scholars, and historians. In his highly readable book, Professor Michael Singer explains why the principal justifications usually given for the use of jurors (improved trial outcomes and promoting democratic citizenship) are largely unfounded and argues convincingly why the jurors’ role is essentially political. By acquitting the guilty, jurors prevent the enforcement of unjust laws and the imposition of unjust punishment; and by convicting the guilty, jurors legitimate the role of government in enacting and enforcing specific criminal sanctions."—Miguel A. Méndez, Professor of Law, University of California Davis School of Law

"Professor Singer has performed a valuable public service. Jury Duty is a comprehensive, easy to read guide to how citizens can use jury duty to improve American criminal justice. It should be required reading for scholars and activists alike."—Paul Butler, Author of Let’s Get Free: A Hip Hop Theory of Justice; Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law School
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