Below are answers to commonly asked questions about jury duty. Once you report to court on your appointed date, the presiding judge will offer additional details regarding the proper function and conduct of a juror.
Is jury duty mandatory?
Yes. The right to trial-by-jury, in both criminal and civil cases, is guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It is your personal contribution as a juror that allows all Americans this basic right as citizens living in a society governed by the rule-of-law. Serving on a jury should be considered an honor—and an awesome responsibility to be accepted with pride.
How are jurors selected?
Jurors are randomly chosen from a master list of names that is derived from a number of other lists, including lists for registered voters and licensed drivers. Selections are made without reference to the prospective juror’s race, creed, gender, color, national origin, or economic status.
How do I know if I am eligible to be a juror?
You are eligible to serve as a juror if you are:
- At least 18 years of age;
- Residing in the county of jury service;
- Able to read and write; and
- Of sound mind.
You are not eligible to serve on a jury if:
- You were ever convicted of a felony or theft-related crime (unless your rights were specifically restored);
- You are currently on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or theft-related conviction; or
- You are currently under indictment for a felony or theft-related criminal charges.
You should always notify the judge if you believe that you are not qualified to serve on a jury panel for any of the above reasons.
Is anyone excused from jury service?
Yes. You are entitled to be excused if you:
- Are over 70 years old;
- Have legal custody of a child under 10 years of age whom you’d have to leave on their own in order to carry out your jury service;
- Are a student;
- Are the caretaker of someone unable to care for themselves (for example, a disabled parent);
- Can show you have a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from being able to carry out your role as juror; or
- Can show you have an inability to comprehend or otherwise communicate in English.
I am disabled; do I still have to participate in jury service?
It is state court policy to provide reasonable accommodations that would enable individuals with disabilities to serve as jurors. It is important that the court be notified in advance of service. Also, the qualification questionnaire also allows you to indicate the type of accommodation you may require.
Will I have to report to the courthouse every day?
Not necessarily. Courts today use telephone call-in systems that enable them to notify jurors in advance as to whether their presence is necessary on a given day. However, once your number is called, you may have to show up at the courthouse on consecutive days until you are either chosen for a jury or your jury duty has ended.
Will there be a lot of waiting around and wasted time?
Every effort is made to minimize the need to sit around. Likewise, every effort is made to release jurors as soon as their service is complete. You should remember, however, that time spent waiting also forms an important part of the valued service jurors provide. Some cases are disposed of without a trial because the litigants and their lawyers know that a jury is ready, willing and able to enter the courtroom and ultimately make important decisions on issues in their respective cases and then render a verdict. When a settlement is reached, as described above, you as a juror have still performed a vital service that is just as important as if you had sat through an entire trial and rendered a verdict—only at less cost to the taxpayers since a full trial was averted.
Will I be asked a lot of questions?
Before a jury is impaneled for a particular case, the judge generally acquaints the jurors with the parties and circumstances of the case before them. The judge and/or the lawyers will then question the jurors to see if they are qualified to act as fair and impartial jurors on a particular case. This is known as the “voir dire” stage of the trial process. The questions are not intended to be personal or unduly inquisitive; they are asked only to see whether you have any prior knowledge of the case, hold a private opinion/belief that cannot be laid aside, or some sort of a personal experience or relationship that would impact your ability to be impartial. The objective is to find a jury composed of disinterested persons to try the case only on the law, as stated by the judge, and upon the evidence admitted during the trial.
I don’t know anything about the courts or the law. Can I be a good juror?
Serving as an effective juror does not require one to possess any special talent or training related to the legal process. The judge presiding over the case will decide on issues of law. You will base your verdict on the evidence presented during the trial by the lawyers, as well as any instructions from the judge, and your common sense. It is expected that you will be open-minded, fair and objective. What should be of primary importance, though, is your own innate desire to see justice done.
Can my employer fire me for being absent from work to attend jury duty?
No. Pursuant to Title 28, U.S.C. § 1875, “No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee’s jury service, or the attendance or scheduled attendance in connection with such service, in any court of the United States.”
Federal Statue 28 U.S. C. 1875 provides employment protection rights for all federal jurors. The Jury Clerk will provide you with verification of your attendance, which you can then provide to your employer.
What should I wear?
Casual attire is acceptable. Men may wear sports jackets, sports shirts, sweaters and slacks. Women are recommended to wear blouses, sweaters, skirts, pants or dresses. Beachwear, shorts, and halter or tank tops are inappropriate attire for court. Hats may not be allowed unless worn for religious purposes. Courtrooms tend to be cool; you may want to bring a sweater or jacket.