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What Is a Federal Court Jury?

Juries are not used by the United States Supreme Court, where cases are decided by justices.
The federal court jury is a jury for federal cases being heard for the first time on the federal level.
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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2014
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A federal court jury is a group of men and women who will make a legally binding decision in a federal court case. In the United States, there are two main court systems: federal and state. Some cases can be exclusively heard in federal court, while others can be heard in either federal or state court. When a case is heard in federal court, the federal court jury will listen to the evidence and apply the law to the facts of the case, determining what it believes to be true based on the evidence presented and deciding on the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

In the United States, the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to a trial by a jury of their peers before they can be convicted of a crime or sent to prison. This is mandated under due process requirements in the Bill of Rights. The right to a trial by jury is usually also appropriate in civil cases, such as tort lawsuits where someone is sued by another private individual for monetary rewards. Federal appeals courts and the United States Supreme Court do not have juries, however, as cases in such courts are decided by judges.

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The federal court jury is a jury for federal cases being heard for the first time on the federal level, as opposed to those cases that are appealed. Cases heard in federal court are those arising from federal questions. In other words, if a person is accused of breaking a federal criminal law, he will be tried in federal court. If a person is suing alleging a violation of his constitutional rights, or his cause-of-action otherwise arises from a federal law such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, then he may have his case heard in federal court. Cases can also be heard in federal court based on diversity jurisdiction, which means that more than $10,000 US Dollars (USD) is being disputed and that the parties having the dispute are from different states.

The federal court jury is assembled from the list of acceptable jurors within the state where the federal court is located. The jurors must not be convicted felons and must be over the age of 18 years of age. The jurors will be questioned before being appointed to the federal court jury to ensure they can be fair and impartial and to ensure they can apply the law.

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Discuss this Article

jcraig
Post 4

@stl156 - Interesting information. How many jurors are on a jury, though? Is it always the same number, or can it change depending on the court and case? How do they decide?

Also, does anyone here know what the difference is between a normal jury and a grand jury? I hear a lot about grand juries, but I have never really understood what they are. All I know is that they aren't the ones who decide cases, and they are responsible for choosing what cases are valid or something along those lines. How are those people chosen?

The article doesn't talk about this, but what are the penalties if you happen to not show up for federal jury duty? Will you get arrested?

stl156
Post 3

@Izzy78 - I actually got selected to serve on a federal jury several years back. I was a registered voter at the time, but I looked into it, and I'm pretty sure as long as you have a driver's license you can get selected. Back then, we got paid $40 per day. I don't know what it is now, though. You got reimbursed for food, travel, and lodging, as well.

Basically, they just sent us a questionnaire at the start, and I think that ruled out some people. The rest of us got called to the court and they went through and selected the final jury, which I was a part of. The case I was a part of was pretty straightforward, so there wasn't much deliberation.

The article mentions that district courts can hold trials for disputes over $10,000 and from two different states. What court handles the trial if the amount is less than $10,000 but the parties are still from different states.

Izzy78
Post 2

@Emilski - Pretty much any law that was passed by the US Congress is tried in a federal court. A lot of the trials involve people either suing federal agencies or being sued by an agency, but there are various situations where two individuals could sue each other.

I am not positive on this, but I'm pretty sure federal jurors are chosen from the same jury pool as for state trials. If someone has more information on this, though, I would be curious to know what the whole process is of getting selected for a federal jury, and what the pay is.

Federal lawyers can do a lot of different things, but so can the other side. From the way I understand it, they get the potential jurors together and then go through them each and ask questions to find the most impartial jury for the case that satisfies both sides.

Emilski
Post 1

What I never really understood was how a case ended up being tried in a federal court. What are some of the instances where you could break a law that would land you in federal court? I'm sure things that are explicitly prohibited by the Constitution would count, but I'm wondering about things besides that.

Also, who is eligible to be on a federal court jury? I know in regular state cases they just choose from the registered voters in the area. Are those the same people they choose from for federal cases, or do they do something different in that instance? I would be curious to know if anyone is familiar with the federal jury selection process, too. What does a federal court attorney do to try to get the jury in their favor?

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