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Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Iloilo Jones (Executive Director of Fully Informed Jury Association) gives expert video advice on: How do I know if I've been summoned for jury duty?; What if I can't make the date on the jury summons?; Why are some people never called for jury duty? and more...

What if I can't make the date on the jury summons?

If there's a reason you can't appear on the date that's on the summons, you have surgery scheduled or your mother has surgery scheduled, and it better be a darn good reason, you should call the clerk of courts and ask if you need to submit a letter, explain that you want to serve, you want to serve on a jury but you can't do it right then but you'd be happy to serve at another time, they may ask you to come in, they may ask you to sign an affidavit, but usually if you have a really good reason they will let you out of jury service. If you get the summons, on the summons itself should be a phone number or an address and the room of the court house or something that will tell you usually the name of a person to call and their phone number or where to write and to whom if for any reason you cannot serve.

Why are some people never called for jury duty?

There are some people who are never called for jury duty and that's for a number of reasons. The main reason people are never called for jury duty is that they are not on the jury rolls. They aren't a registered voter, or they don't have a driving license because that's where jury pools are drawn.

Why are some people called to jury duty repeatedly?

People often get called to jury duty repeatedly because there's a small jury pool, maybe half the people in the town aren't registered voters, maybe a lot of people are excused for other reasons, if you lived in Washington, DC a lot of people are excused because they're federal employees, and so even though it may be a large community, they may have a lot of court cases and a lot of jury trials but a very small jury pool to draw from. And another reason you might be called repeatedly is because you've told the Clerk of Courts that you're retired and you enjoy serving on juries, and you're interested in justice, and they can put you on the volunteer jury list.

Can I be called to jury duty, but never serve?

A lot of people get called to jury duty not just once, but maybe three or four times, and yet they are never selected to serve on a jury. And that's not unusual because usually when they call people in for jury duty they will call in a jury pool of between thirty and sixty people at one time. And from that pool they may only draw twelve people. So you could be called in many times and never actually have to or get the opportunity to actually serve on a jury.

How does the court decide who will serve on a jury?

When you are called into jury duty, and you report, you receive the summons and the whole jury pool shows up and lets say there are sixty people and they only need twelve people for the case. The attorneys for both sides, the prosecutor and the defense attorney, are going to ask people questions and it may be that you are called in and you are excused from jury duty because they don't think that you fit the qualifications of the people they want. Or again, twelve people have already been chosen before they have a chance to talk to you.

What basic qualifications does a juror have to meet?

Well, the basic qualifications for getting a jury summons are that you would have to be on the jury rolls. Which means you probably are a registered voter, you have a driver's license. Sometimes they use property tax rolls to choose the people that are called into the jury pool. So that's the basic qualification. If you don't have - if you're not a registered voter, if you don't have a driver's license, if you don't own property and your community uses those ways and you'd still like to serve on a jury, you should go down and see the clerk of courts and make sure your name is on the jury pool list, so you can be called in to serve on a jury. But, in general, the federal guidelines, and for most states the guidelines are: you should be 18 years old to serve on a jury, you should not be a convicted felon or charged presently with a felony, you should understand English, and you should of lived in the area for a year. And then you're qualified to serve on a jury.

What are the penalties if I don't show up to jury duty?

If you get a summons to show up for jury duty and you don't show up for jury duty, and you don't call the clerk of courts or send a note or let them know why you can't come and that you'll be available another time and it better be a darn good reason, you could be actually called into court and held in contempt of court for not showing up for jury duty. But let me say this to you. If you don't have any reason to not be there, go serve on a jury because you may have an opportunity to protect another persons human rights. And you would want them to show up for your jury if you were on trial.

Can't we just use computers to serve as jurors?

We have juries and we have humans to serve on juries for a very important reason. Because each human has a conscience and they have their own sense of justice and they have their own considerations and concepts about the social moors of the community. And so we need humans to serve on juries when another human being is on trial. They're the only ones that can make a valid verdict.