Jury duty has recently been featured in many tabloids and magazines after a judge excused Taylor Swift, though the reason was not her celebrity status or busy schedule, but rather that she has a pending civil assault case that could influence her frame of mind.
Most people would rather not be called for jury duty but when that letter comes in the mail, it is your responsibility to respond.
Judgment by peers is the concept behind jury duty and this system has been in place since the creation of the United States Constitution. Thus, participation should be seen not as an interruption in one’s routine but a display of civic duty and the opportunity to ensure that an accused person and the accuser get justice from an impartial group of private individuals.
The most prevalent system used today is known as the “One Day,” which requires a person summoned to appear in court for the selection process. If you are not selected, then you can go home and resume your life without being summoned again for at least two years.
During the selection process, the number of jurors picked will depend on the type of trial. If it is a civil trial, the court will only need six jurors, but if it is a criminal trial, 12 jurors are required.
Jury selection differs from state to state but the general process is:
- The first 12 are called by the court clerk to take their place in the jury box.
- The judge explains the type of case and asks the 12 jurors if they have any reason they cannot participate. The acceptable reasons would include the following:
- Previous personal experience with a similar trial that would impair fair judgment;
- Being on active duty, a first responder, or a public servant;
- You were a juror less than two years ago, or you are over 70 years of age.
- Lawyers from both sides will start asking questions, also known as “peremptory challenges.” If for any reason they feel the juror is unqualified, they can ask the judge to dismiss that person or persons. Lawyers can also ask persons to be dismissed without asking them questions if they know for a fact that the person is prejudiced towards their client.
- The judge is the ultimate decision-maker on who can be dismissed and who has to serve.
- Once a jury has been selected, they are sworn in by the court clerk and given instructions on proper behavior and responsibilities as jurors.
Under the federal courts, jurors are given a daily wage of $40, although this can increase to $50 if the trial exceeds ten days. Jurors are also provided with food, parking and transportation per diem, and accommodations, if necessary. If you have a job, your employer is not obliged to pay you for the days you are a juror, though many employers have not begrudged their workers their daily wages.
Finally, the United States Courts continue to stress that there have been cases of people getting called in for jury duty only to be scammed into providing confidential data. Never give out your personal information to a stranger over a phone or via email. All jury notices are sent by mail and never request for information like your social security number, bank card details, or personal contact information.