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Arizona lawmakers thought they had made strides in the state’s efforts to crack down on jury scofflaws last May, when they passed stiffer penalties for those who ignored their jury summonses. The law is working�maybe a bit too effectively. State legislators started receiving calls from senior residents across the state�many of whom are physically unable to travel to a courthouse or sit through a trial. Before the new law, prospective jurors could be excused from serving if they notified the court of a hardship. But under the new rules, which took effect in January, seniors are now required to relay a letter from their doctor. State Representative Phil Hansen, R-Peoria, said the biggest problem with the law was stripping the jury commissioners�who have the authority to excuse individuals from jury duty�of their ability to use their own discretion. This causes a problem for seniors, who have to meet specific medical criteria established by the court to get out of jury duty, as opposed to being excused by a commissioner. Some of the complaints directed to the legislators have included the lack of a means of transportation to get to the courthouse or the doctor’s office, the cost of attaining a doctor’s letter, and the embarrassment of having to explain their condition. State Representative Stephen Tulley, R-Phoenix, chairman of the House judiciary committee, said that for a senior who is not physically able to go to the courthouse, making an appointment and getting a letter signed by his or her physician can prove to be just as troublesome. In light of these concerns, Hansen said some Arizona legislators are working on a new bill to accommodate the problems expressed by their older constituents. Possible solutions include the creation of an exemption for jury service at a certain age, according to the Arizona House of Representatives majority whip, Representative Randy Graf, R-Green Valley. The new law, passed in May 2003, was sparked by the alarmingly high percentage�in some areas hovering at 80%�of people who disregarded their jury summonses. The bill also enacted larger fines for failure to respond to juror summonses. “The penalties we had were not strong enough to stop people from ignoring their summonses,” Graf said. “They also weren’t worth going after those that wouldn’t respond.” According to the most recent state court organization report by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, 24 states, including Florida, New Jersey, Texas and Wyoming, have age exemptions to jury service, ranging from 65 to 75.

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