To the citizens of Yavapai County,
My name is John Napper. In August of this year, I was appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court as the Presiding Judge of the Yavapai County Superior Court. It has long been my impression the judicial system does not always do a very good job communicating directly with the people they serve. The Courts belong to the people and I want to make efforts to keep everyone in the loop about all of the things we are doing to ensure justice in Yavapai County. I hope to write more of these to you over time.
I write this first letter on behalf of the Judges of the Yavapai County Superior Court. We wanted to take a quick minute of your time to say Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Holidays. More specifically, we would like to thank each of you for helping ensure justice is served in Yavapai County. In a very real and meaningful way, the Courts cannot function without the participation of the citizenry.
The Constitutions of the United States and Arizona guarantee any person charged with a felony the right to a trial by jury. The purpose of this right is to ensure that each case its judged on its merits by a fair cross-section of the community and to allow the citizenry to determine innocence or guilt. This right is fundamental to the American understanding of justice and is essential to securing every person’s right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Without juries, criminal justice comes to a halt.
Judges are always appreciative and thankful for those of you who appear in our courts as jurors or prospective jurors. We know, that in the best of times, jury duty can throw a wrench into your personal and professional lives. We are always truly grateful that you are willing to fulfill your civic duty and serve even when inconvenient.
This year, I want to extend a special and heartfelt thank you to all of you who participated or will participate in jury service during the pandemic. Due to COVID-19, the Arizona Supreme Court suspended all jury trials from March through July. As you can imagine, suspending criminal trials created a severe backlog in the processing of criminal cases. The Yavapai County Superior Court resumed jury trials in early August. Since this time, we have conducted approximately 20 jury trials. Yavapai County, along with Mohave County, are leading the state in completion of criminal jury trials. None of this hard work could have been done without all of you.
These are difficult times. People are struggling to stay healthy, remain employed, and care for their families. Nonetheless, an overwhelming number of you are fulfilling your duty to your fellow citizens by responding to our jury questionnaire. Many of you indicate you are capable of serving as jurors in a court of law even under the most trying circumstances. We know we are asking a lot of the citizens of Yavapai County, and you are answering the call. I am impressed by your dedication to the rule of law and deeply appreciative of your courageous hearts.
In reviewing questionnaires from prospective jurors, it is clear to me that many of you are struggling this holiday season. Many are worried about the pandemic in relation to health risks. Many are worried about losing work due to the economic impact of the pandemic. Many are having to work from home or abandon work in order to care for children who cannot attend school in person. I want you to know we hear you and our hearts go out to you. You are in our thoughts and prayers, and we wish you Godspeed in returning to some sense of normalcy.
Thomas Paine once wrote, “these are the times that try men’s souls.” In this same essay he also pronounced, “the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” He wrote these words attempting to inspire folks to choose liberty over tyranny. He wrote these words during a time when the world battled the scourge of the smallpox virus. He published these words in December of 1776.
I fully acknowledge these too are times that try our souls. However, I am fully convinced we will find a path out of our current circumstance. After all, as noted by Paine, triumph in the face of adversity is the American Way. Maybe the first step in the process of leading the nation out of this morass is to ensure that justice is done in a rural county in Arizona.
Thank you to all of those who have answered our call, even if it is tell us you cannot serve at this time. You are the reason our courts are able to function. The Yavapai County Superior Court is eternally grateful to you all.
Please have a blessed and safe Christmas, Hanukkah and holiday season. Lord knows you have earned it.
Presiding Judge Yavapai County Superior Court.