Pennsylvania court officials are telling commonwealth residents to be wary of telephone calls and text messages about jury duty.
In an announcement released by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts on Sept. 20, Court Administrator Zygmont A. Pines cautioned people to keep an ear out for calls and texts that inform them their names will be appearing in local newspapers for failing to appear for jury duty.
The call then directs the recipients to dial a phone number where a recorded message advises them they have failed to appear for jury duty and face either a $500 fine or a 30-day jail sentence.
The message ends by saying the call is actually a joke, and that the phone number should be forwarded to others to prolong the hoax, according to Pines’ announcement.
“This prank is causing confusion and anxiety and has resulted in disruptions and undue work for court employees, which translates to a waste of tax dollars,” Pines said in a statement. “Please don’t forward these messages if you receive one.
“Our focus needs to be on providing the efficient administration of justice for the Commonwealth and its citizens.”
Pines urged citizens who have inquiries about jury service to call their county court administrator’s office, a listing of which could be find at the Pennsylvania Judiciary website: http://www.pacourts.us/T/CommonPleas/DCAs.htm.
The Associated Press is reporting that the prank is run by the same people who run the online gag site www.humorhotlines.com.
Jeff Goldblatt, the founder of RH Brands LLC, the Georgia-based company that runs the website, told the AP that the jury duty prank is for “entertainment” purposes only, and not meant to be taken seriously.
“A fraction of one percent of callers don’t get the joke and that is, unfortunately, what has led to all this media coverage,” Goldblatt wrote in an emailed message to the AP. “Our intent is certainly not to upset anyone or cause any problems for the courthouse officials, administrators, etc.”