[EM] Decision juries - notes and responses

Joe Weinstein jweins123 at hotmail.com
Thu Aug 1 15:10:13 PDT 2002

Thanks to Dave Ketchum for his comment!

Near the end of his comment, Dave notes that: ‘even the Greeks realized that 
there is no way to get the right decisions made with every citizen 
responsible for every detail.’   This and other statements suggest that one 
key point in my proposal is easy to overlook.

I have proposed that government decisions of law and policy be by randomly 
chosen citizen decision juries.  For instance, decisions now made by a state 
legislative house - e.g. assembly - should be made by citizen juries.

I am NOT proposing a SINGLE jury to replace the entire legislative assembly 
for an extended period (for instance, a year).   Quite the CONTRARY.

I AM proposing that EACH SINGLE DECISION or SMALL GROUP of related decisions 
BE GIVEN OVER TO A DISTINCT JURY - much as we assemble a citizen trial jury 
today to work on JUST ONE CASE.

A typical citizen decision jury would in effect replace a SINGLE committee 
of the assembly, in its work of a FEW DAYS OR WEEKS, on a SINGLE issue, 
involving just a single bill or group of related bills.

[What presently is handled by a legislative body will annually call for 
quite a few juries.  Besides juries working on specific issues, others will 
be needed to agendize and prioritize the issues to be taken up.  Moreover to 
keep to the American constitutional spirit of ‘checks and balances’ and 
‘separation of powers’, so as to avoid abuses of power, we will need not 
only ‘original’ or ‘first-stage’ decision juries but also ‘appellate’ or  
‘second-stage’ juries, to review decisions and then to confirm or veto 

There’s therefore no need for a citizen juror to ‘understand all the details 
of governing’.  In fact, even in relatively short time, there’s far more 
opportunity for a typical citizen juror working on just one issue to 
understand that issue than there is for a typical politician - who must, 
often in short time, decide on many issues.

Indeed, politicians usually fully grasp needed points on few if any of the 
matters they decide.  At best, they call on real experts for advice -  which 
decision juries would be empowered to do.

Dave writes: ‘on rereading I see a random subset doing each decision, but 
nothing about their being willing and able to do it well).’

Nowadays there’s no guarantee nor even requirement that politicians be able 
to make each decision ‘well’.  As I’ve noted, there’s every reason to 
believe that - as already occurs for trial juries - there will be enough 
willing citizens and moreover able to do the job well enough.

Dave also writes: ‘...that [decision jury service] would become a full time 
task for each voter who got randomly picked (likely UNWANTED by most), with 
no time left to do something productive or to take part in having a family.’

No worse than usual trial jury service!  Typically, only a minority - but 
still a quite sufficient number - of summoned citizens are actually seated 
on a trial jury.   Those summoned citizens who have strong desires or good 
reasons not to serve - or show potential for serious bias, etc. - are 
excused; and we still typically have many willing jurors.

Sure, decision jury service, just like trial jury service, could be ‘full 
time’ - but quite temporarily so (generally a few days, maybe up to a few 
weeks - and just once every few years).

Jury service involves novel and problem-solving teamwork for the public 
good, with generally interesting teammates.  These aspects have made the 
trial jury experience a positive one for me and for many others.

This is so even for those whose usual pay is not fully covered by a 
combination of support from juror’s pay and employer.   On this point, 
today’s politician salaries and benefits could be used instead to well 
compensate citizen decision jurors.

As Dave concludes, even when a citizen may not wish to participate very 
actively in decision-making, he still desires ‘a better chance to be 
heard...’.   For this reason, as I noted earlier, citizen decision juries 
would be REQUIRED to hold public hearings and to receive oral and written 
testimony from ALL interested parties - including experts, activists and 
ordinary concerned citizens.

Joe Weinstein
Long Beach CA USA

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