Once you turn the age of 18, you are eligible to be summoned for jury duty. Jury service is one of the most important civic duties you can perform. The protection of rights and liberties in federal courts largely is achieved through the teamwork of a judge and jury. You learn when you are little that in a courtroom a case is held with lawyers, a judge and jury. What you don’t learn right away is that the jury consists of everyday citizens like yourself that are required by law to serve no mater what state or county you are in. It is a fundamental right of citizens- the right to have their cases decided by a jury of their peers. If you haven’t been summoned yet, do you wonder what it is like? Well below we will give you an overview of what you can expect.
Potential jurors are typically summoned by mail via a jury duty notice. The names who are notified are drawn at random by the voter list in your county. When you receive your notice you will typically receive a questionnaire to see if you qualify for service. You are required to complete this questionnaire and will be penalized for not complying.
There are requirements to who can serve as a juror. One thing is that they must be randomly selected and can not volunteer. Other requirements consist of: being a US citizen, being 18 years of age, must be a resident in the district for at least one year, must be able to read/write/understand English, must be mentally and physically fit to render service, free of felony charges. The law also exempts armed forces, active duty, fire and police departments, and public officers currently fulfilling public duties. Regardless of their desire to serve, they are not allowed. Other individuals who may get a pass are people who are over the age of 70.
If you complete the questionnaire and are still eligible to proceed to the selection process you will be called to court. Just because you are summoned for jury service does not guarantee you will actually serve on the jury. There are many steps in the process until that point. Some may even hire a jury consultant to help in the process. If a jury is needed for a trial the group of jurors is taken to the courtroom where the trial will take place and they attorneys from both sides of the case will ask them questions. The questions will allow them to see who would be best to serve on the actual jury. This is done so that people who may not be able to decide on a case fairly are eliminated or removed from the situation. The whole point is a fair trial so anyone who would hinder that should not be involved. Members of the panel who know any person involved in the case, who have information about the case, or who may have strong prejudices about the people or issues involved in the case, typically will be excused by the judge. Sometimes you may be excused with no reason given.
If you are chosen to serve a trial, you will be faced with one of two types of proceedings. A trial in the federal courts that use juries are either criminal or civil. A criminal trial is when a person is accused of a crime against society as a whole. A civil trial is when litigants seek help with a private wrong doing that doesn’t impact society as a whole. Depending on the trial that is faced, the number of jurors will serve. Guilty pleas, negotiations, settlements would all
Most people don’t realize that jury duty is actually a paid service. The pay is $50 a day plus potentially a reimbursement for transportation and/or parking fees. While federal does not require your employer to continue your salary while you are out, some may still continue to do so. Some trials can go for weeks, maybe even months. If your employer will continue to pay you then it will be helpful. It is against a law for an employer to give you any grief for having to serve. They are not allowed to fire you.
Overall the jury summons, selection and trial process is quite involved. It can be very educational and make you feel like you are doing your part in serving your country.