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A juror summons is issued by a court, and appearance for jury duty is mandatory unless the potential juror is excused. The right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the US Constitution and all state constitutions in both civil and criminal cases. Failure to respond to the summons can result in a contempt of court citation and possible fines or a short jail sentence.
Jurors are selected randomly from state departments of motor vehicles and voter registration lists. Anyone who is 18 years or older, a US citizen, and is not a convicted felon whose civil rights have not been restored may be selected for jury duty. Because the process is completely random by law, some people may be chosen more often than others may.
A potential juror can be excused from jury duty for such things as mental or physical disability or the inability to read the English language. A person responsible for the actual and necessary physical care of another person can be excused from service if no other care arrangements are feasible. Because of the importance of their jobs, police officers and active duty military personnel can also be excused.
In some states, people over the age of seventy-five can be permanently excluded from jury duty upon request. Requests to be excluded from jury duty can usually be made on the forms or questionnaires provided with a juror summons. The phone number of the local jury commission is included with jury duty information. A person summoned to jury duty may also request a postponement based on unavailability, but a different time to serve must be chosen. In some jurisdictions, a postponement may require an appearance before the judge.
The term of jury service varies from state to state. Some jurisdictions use a “pooling” system, and the person receiving a juror summons may be “on call” for weeks or even months. Some states have a “one day one trial” rule. If a juror is not picked for a trial on the first day called for service, jury duty ends. If the juror is picked for a trial, jury duty ends when the trial ends.
Part of jury selection includes “voir dire.” This is where the court and the attorneys ask jurors about their backgrounds and whether they may have any prejudices regarding the type of case or the parties involved. The court and the attorneys will have basic information about the jury pool based on the answers to questionnaires sent with the juror summons. Some jurors are excused from sitting on a particular jury because of answers they give during voir dire. A juror excluded from one jury may still be selected to sit on another.
I liked being a juror when I got my summons, but being away from my regular job and my family for a few weeks was difficult. I tried to get out of jury duty at first, but the list of acceptable excuses is pretty short. My mother-in-law was sick at the time, but the judge decided my obligation as a juror outweighed my obligations to a family member.
The way it was explained to me, a person has a legal obligation to respond to a jury summons letter. That's pretty much an inescapable reality. However, there is every chance one side or the other will release people from jury duty service for any reason or no reason at all.
I just got a federal jury pool summons in the mail last week, and I have never been called to jury duty service before in my life. The letter said I had to provide some basic personal information, like my occupation, age and race. The letter went on to say that I had to fill in all of the information before mailing it back. If I left anything blank, the court had the right to call me into the federal courthouse offices at my own expense. Needless to say, I filled everything out completely.
One thing that concerns me is that there are three federal courthouses in my area. One is right in my city, which means I'd only have to drive a few miles to the courthouse for jury duty. The other two are at least an hour's drive away. I hope they notice my address and don't call me up for those other courthouses.
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