The hard reality is that for many people jury service is physically and psychologically frightening. This is particularly so for the elderly who may have a limited ability to cope with yet another governmental bureaucracy.
We as lawyers and judges tend to forget this.
New York is one of a dozen states that does not have an automatic exemption or excusal from jury service for persons over a certain age—usually 65 or 70. This is bizarrely ironic in view of the fact that while federal judges may sit well into their dotage, citizens in all four New York federal districts may claim an automatic excusal from jury service over the age of 70; however New York State court judges are deemed automatically unfit at that age* but our jury-summoned citizens must obtain a doctor’s humiliating note attesting to their weakness of mind or bladder before excusal. Why we have chosen to so punish our elders is incomprehensible.
* Only marginally unfit if on the state Supreme Court where service may be extended to age 76.
Leon Polsky is a retired Court of Claims judge.