Jury Duty: Excuses And Exemptions

Jury Duty: Excuses And Exemptions

Iloilo Jones (Executive Director of Fully Informed Jury Association) gives expert video advice on: What are legal ways to get out of jury duty?; Are some professions exempt from jury duty?; How do I apply my exemption? and more...

There are really not that many ways to get out of jury duty if you are called for jury duty that are legal. One of them of course is that you may have extraordinary circumstances. You may be going in the hospital for surgery and they may want a note from your doctor. A note from your mother will not do. If you get a summons for jury duty and you are actually serving in the armed forces overseas you obviously can't be there and that's a legal excuse. But there really aren't a lot of legal excuses and you should not try to find a legal excuse. If you have a valid excuse you will know it's valid. But I am not going to encourage you to get out of jury duty I am going to encourage you show up and try to get on the jury instead.

Are some professions exempt from jury duty?

Sometimes people are called for jury duty, they are exempt. There are very few judges--I don't think any judges, I think they're exempt from jury duty all the time. Police officers, some government employees, I think firemen are, and some types of doctors are exempt from jury duty. And if they get a summons (because they may not know who they are), they need to call the clerk of courts and say, "You know, you probably don't want me on the jury. I'm a judge."

Is there such a thing as permanent juror exemption?

Sometimes people may get a summons and then after they've discussed it with the clerk of courts we're going to find out that they actually are permanently exempt from ever being called in for jury duty. They may be permanently stationed out of the country for instance, so why would they send them a summons, they're never going to be there. They may be permanently, or until they retire, a law enforcement person. They may be a judge. The may be a medical person of some type who's on call or on emergency call. They may be another kind of emergency person; a paramedic, some paramedics can get permanent excuses as long as they're on certain shift rotations. So there are some that are permanent and some that are semi-permanent, but there are certainly a lot of exemptions. If you're not sure, call the clerk of courts and explain your situation or write a letter if you have time between the time you get the summons and the time you need to show up to serve for jury, and find out what you need to do to make sure that you're not really doing something that you shouldn't be doing by avoiding jury service.

What constitutes a 'severe hardship' exemption?

Sometimes there are people who are called in for jury duty, they get a summons and they actually have such a severe hardship that they cannot go. They may have just broken their leg skiing and they're in a wheelchair. That's definitely a severe hardship. You probably cannot even get in and out of the courtroom to maneuver around. Nobody wants you there anyway because they would have to take care of you and you are going to be grumpy. You may have just been told by your doctor that you have to have dialysis on a regular basis and you can't serve on a jury if you need to be able to go have dialysis. You may have other medical problems that are severe enough that you simply cannot perform as a juror. If you have a question about that, call the Clerk of Courts, sometimes it's the court bailiff, but usually it's the Clerk of Courts, let them know what your circumstances are and they're very understanding about this usually and they will probably just say, let us know when you think you're ready to come back and be put back in the jury pool.

Can you elect not to serve on a jury by ignoring a summons?

If you get a summons to serve, to go, to report for jury duty you really can't just toss it in the waste basket. You really can't decide on your own that you're just not going to show up. You're just going to ignore the summons. Don't do that. You could be held in contempt of court. They could issue a warrant for the sheriff to come out and get you to take you to court and appear before the judge who's going to say, "What the heck is wrong with you? We sent you a notice. If you couldn't come, you know there's a number on there to call, there was an address. There was a way for you to get in touch with us. Why did you not show up?" and they may fine you or they may, you know make you do city volunteer work or something like that. That's usually what they do, they make you do volunteer work in the community. But, we need you to show up for jury duty. So don't throw away that summons. Go and serve so that you can do your part to be part of our government and make it work the way you want it to.

If I have a preconcieved opinion about the case, should I make that known?

Usually when you're called in for jury service, and you're going through the voir dire process and they are asking you questions, you may not know what kind of a case you are going to be assigned to at that time. But if they start asking you questions about, have you ever been arrested for a DUI, has anybody in your family ever been arrested for a DUI, has anybody in your family been involved in an accident while drinking, and you've been reading in the paper about your next door neighbor who accidentally killed someone while they were drunk, you need to let them know that. You may not be able to be impartial if the next door neighbor is the person who gave you your puppies, you know, from their last litter, and they're the person who's your godfather, or something. You need to let them know.