As a citizen of the United States, it is our civic duty and responsibility to serve on jury duty. Every US citizen above the age of 18, who is proficient in English, and has been a resident of their judicial district for at least a year, is eligible to be summoned for jury duty. Those ineligible for jury duty are limited to people currently subject to felony charges, and those formally convicted of a felony charge, unless their civil rights have been legally restored. Though, jury duty may seem like an inconvenience to some, and an honor to others, it is an essential part of the judicial system our country is based on.
Several groups of people are exempt from their eligibility, including the armed forces on active duty, professional fire and police department, and “Public Officers” of the federal, state, or local government, who are actively engaged full time in the performance of public duties. These people cannot serve jury duty, even if they would like to.
Other groups can be excused from service. These groups include people over the age of 70, persons who have served within the past two years, and those who serve as volunteer fire fighters or are members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew. Other temporary excusals may be granted at the discretion of the court.
Once you’ve received a summons to jury duty, ignoring it is generally bad. However, the letter does not guarantee you will serve. While employers can chose to continue paying an employee during jury duty, the law does not require it. Financial need, alone, is a reason you can be excused.
Jury selection is a long process that takes time. You’re going to have to wait, so bring a good book, or something to keep you busy. The process itself is called “Voir dire,” and it describes a procedure in which attorneys from both sides go back and forth asking questions of potential jury members. Generally, an attorney is looking for a jury member who has few opinions, is average when it comes to intelligence, works a menial job, and seems easy to sway. Obviously, a lawyer is looking for a jury member who seems like they will side with their argument. If you want to get chosen, you will want to avoid possible contact with police, doctors and lawyers involved, as to thwart any possibility of bias, appear earnest, and surprisingly, go to church. Being involved in religion makes you seem like you know the difference between right and wrong.
Many people intentionally try to get out of jury duty by sounding opinionated and obnoxious when asked questions. This actually works to a lawyers benefit. It gives them time to judge the nonverbal cues of potential jurors surrounding their ‘outspoken’ person. They watch for signs of agreement or disagreement, by paying attention to slight headshakes, crossing of arms, or nodding. The psychology behind jury selection can make or break an attorney’s case.
Potential Jurors are also judged based on age, gender, race, wealth, appearance, marital status, and all the stereotypes that go along with each of these categories. Depending on these traits, a lawyer can judge relatively accurately, whether a person will be sympathetic to the plaintiff or defense.
If chosen, you’ll be pleased to know there is compensation for jury duty. A Petit Jury is paid $40 per day, and can receive up to $50 a day after serving for 10 days. A Grand Jury is paid the same $40 per day, and can receive up to $50 a day after serving for 40 days. Government employees are paid their regular salary in lieu of this compensation. Jurors are also reimbursed for transportation and parking fees, in addition to receiving a subsistence allowance to cover meals and any required overnight stay.
Though many find Jury Duty to be a burden, more often than not, those chosen find it a fascinating experience, in which they can learn about our judicial system first-hand. Try to learn from it, instead of finding ways to get out of it.
Do you or a loved one have a legal issue and need the assistance of an attorney? If so, Contact the experienced lawyers at Coye Law Firm for a free consultation.