Do I have to serve jury duty?
Unless you are disqualified or exempted from service as a juror, or have already been excused from service by the Magistrate, you are required to appear in court at the day and time specified on the jury summons. Failure to appear may result in a citation for contempt of court, and a bench warrant may be issued against you. Persons seeking to be excused should contact the court within five days of receiving their summons. If you do not contact the court within five days, or should the clerk be unable to excuse you, you are required to appear on the first day of the jury term and request the judge to excuse you. Only the Magistrate of the court can excuse you from jury duty, and your request may be denied or approved at his/her discretion.
If my boss doesn't like me to be off work, will this excuse me from jury duty?
Persons seeking to be excused for any reason should speak with the presiding Judge. Typically, you will not be excused for work-related reasons. It is against the law for an employer to penalize you for performing jury service or to prevent you from serving as a juror. If you are currently involved in an important project, going out of town on business or having to work extra hours, you may be able to reschedule your jury service to a more convenient date. You should contact the court in which you were summoned to appear if you wish to reschedule your jury service for another term of court.
How can I be excused from jury service?
You may ask the Magistrate to excuse you from jury service if you can show good and sufficient reason why you should not have to serve. Typical reasons might include temporary or permanent physical disability, or women with children under the age of seven without means of providing adequate care while performing jury duty. Before you can be excused for one of these reasons, you may be asked to furnish an affidavit.
Is anyone exempt from jury service?
You may choose to serve, or not to serve if you are over sixty-five years old, or if you were inadvertently summoned after having served within the past year as a Magistrates' Courts juror. If you meet any of the above-listed criteria for exemption and do not wish to serve, you should contact the court and it will not be necessary for you to appear on the date specified on the summons.
Why would someone be disqualified from jury service?
You may be disqualified from jury service (not allowed to serve) if:
- You have been convicted in a state or federal court of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment and your civil rights have not been restored.
- You are unable to read, write, speak or understand the English language to a degree sufficient to allow you to act as a juror.
- If you have less than a 6th grade (or equivalent) education.
- If you are unable to render efficient jury service due to severe mental or physical infirmity.
Failure to state such disqualifying facts upon questioning by the magistrate is punishable as contempt of court. Likewise, furnishing false or misleading information may also subject you to penalties for contempt of court. Further, no Clerk or Deputy Clerk of Court, Constable, Sheriff, Probate Judge, County Commissioner, Magistrate, County Officer or any person employed within the walls of any courthouse is eligible to serve as a juror.
What's the difference in serving on a Magistrates' Courts jury, a Common Pleas or a General Sessions jury?
Because of the different nature of these courts, jury service in Magistrates' Courts generally lasts only one day, as compared to several days or a week in the Circuit Courts. Jurors in Magistrates' Courts hear criminal misdemeanor, traffic, small claims or minor civil disputes, and the juries are comprised of six members, as opposed to twelve-member panels in the Circuit Courts.
How long do I have to serve?
Except in unusual circumstances, jurors in Magistrates' Courts are required to serve only one day.
Will I be paid for serving as a juror? What about mileage and parking?
You will be compensated at a rate of $10 per day and .505 cents per mile (round-trip) from you home to the courthouse if you serve as a juror. A check will be issued to you, compensating you for your service as a juror one to two week after the term of court ends. These checks are mailed to your home address. Adequate parking is available at court where trials are held.
Will I be paid even if I'm not picked to serve on the jury panel?
Yes, each juror appearing at jury selection will be compensated even if they are not selected to serve on a jury panel in a trial.
Will I definitely sit in on a trial when I am summoned for jury duty?
Not necessarily. There are many factors involved in selecting a jury for a case, and it may be that you will not be picked for the jury panel. Jurors who are not selected for a jury panel are excused from service for the balance of the term of court.
How are trial jurors selected?
The selection of jurors is the first step in the actual trial of a jury case and the first step of this selection process is called "voir dire" . The judge will first explain what the case is about in general terms, and state the names of the parties involved, and their attorneys. The judge may then begin questioning the jurors. Some questions will be directed to all the jurors present, and others may be directed to individual jurors. If a prospective juror is not found to be legally qualified to act as a juror, s/he may be excused "for cause", by
either the judge or one of the attorneys.
After the conclusion of voir dire, the attorneys have the right to exercise a certain number of "peremptory challenges". This means that the attorney may excuse a juror without having to state a specific reason. Jurors who are challenged and thereby "stricken" should not be offended, as each attorney has a different idea as to the type of juror that would be most beneficial to the trial of the case. In Magistrates' Courts, each side is allowed six "strikes". Jury selection is concluded when six members are chosen for the panel, and the appropriate number of alternate jurors are chosen.
What does the term "voir dire" mean?
The phrase"Voir Dire" literally means "to speak the truth". In court, it refers to a process of determining whether a juror can serve fairly and impartially in a given case by asking the juror various questions. These questions are designed to let the court learn whether a juror has prior knowledge of the case, is related to or employed by one of the parties in the case, and whether the juror has prejudices and opinions which would make it impossible for him/her to make an impartial decision in the case.
How should I dress?
It is not necessary for you to "dress up" for court. However, the Judiciary does require appropriate attire in the courtroom; specifically no tank tops, shorts, hats, ball caps or "flip-flop" sandals are allowed.
What should I bring with me to the court?
You aren't required to bring anything with you, although you may wish to bring a book or magazine to read during any delays or waiting periods. Because of the need for quiet, you should not bring items such as computer games. Also, you may not bring cellular phones or pagers into the courtroom.
When you arrive at the court, you may be required to pass through a metal detector. This metal detector is provided for the security of yourself and others. The sheriff deputies on duty are required to confiscate such contraband items as guns, knives, mace, or other implements which could be used as weapons or are considered a danger to the court. If you own such items, you should leave them at home.
Is there any special "courtroom etiquette" I should be aware of?
There are certain rules of behavior that a juror should follow. Foremost among these is the requirement to always be on time. Delays inconvenience the judge, the attorney's, the parties, witnesses and other jurors. When a court session begins and the judge enters the courtroom, everyone including the jurors, should rise. You should always give your undivided attention to every question and answer during a trial, and during the voir dire process. You must answer all questions put to you with complete honesty. You should attempt to be
as quiet as possible in court, and also when you are in the corridors near the courtrooms.