Jury Duty in the US: Is it Mandatory?
According to the Seventh Amendment, all U.S. citizens are constitutionally guaranteed the right to a trial by a jury of their peers. Therefore, it is every person’s civic duty if called upon, to perform jury duty and help a fellow American to justice.
What is Jury Duty
Jury duty is mandatory, and it is how every American takes part in our justice system. Being summoned for jury duty can be stressful. You must take time off from work, and although the court pays you a fee, it is very little. Chances are your employer will not pay you for the time taken off to perform jury duty. If you are chosen, you could be out of work for many days or even weeks if it is a lengthy trial.
In some cases, you can be excused from jury duty if you have a good reason. You may or may not be chosen for the final jury selection. Sometimes people do not want to be on a jury for a variety of different reasons. If you can show a valid hardship for not being able to perform jury duty, the judge may excuse you.
How Does it Work?
First, you will receive in the mail, a jury summons. You will be required to show up at courthouse location on a specific date and time. All the other potential jurors selected for jury duty will accompany you. You will be assembled in a room and instructed on the process and how things will work. You may have to fill out paperwork and sign in. Often, a judge will come and meet with the group and ask each of you some questions. Their job at this point is to qualify you for jury duty. Once qualified, a bailiff will separate you into groups of 24-60 people and assign each of you a trial. You will be assigned a number and taken to a courtroom to proceed with jury selection. The judge and lawyers will refer to you by your assigned number.
The Jury Selection Process
Once you are seated and have your number assigned, a judge and lawyers will enter the room. The judge will thank you for being there and talk about the jury selection process. The plaintiff’s lawyer gets to question the jury first then the defendant’s. The purpose of jury selection is to eliminate jurors who have a bias that would make them unsuitable to sit on trial for the case. For example, a juror who just had an issue with worker’s compensation might not be a good fit for a case on worker’s comp. You may have a predetermined bias based on your experience. Lawyers are looking for jurors who can be neutral in the case, hear all the evidence and vote based on that rather than their own personal feelings towards something or someone. Generally, a lawyer will not talk about the details of the case but merely question each juror about their life experiences and biases. The attorneys can strike you from the case for one of two reasons; “cause” and “peremptory.” “Cause” means it was because of bias, and the judge also allows each lawyer a certain amount of “peremptory” strikes as well. During this phase, you will either be excused or retained as a juror.
Can Anyone Be Used for Jury Duty?
Although the requirements to be on a jury vary from state to state, there are a few typical qualifications. You must be at least 18 years old to qualify for jury duty. You must be a legal U.S. citizen. You also have to reside in the state and county where you were summoned. You must be able to write and speak English well enough to serve. You cannot suffer from any mental or physical ailment that would make you unstable for jury duty. If you were ever convicted of a felony, then you cannot serve on a jury.
Once You are Selected
Once you become a juror, the judge will instruct you on your duties and how you are to evaluate the evidence and deliberate the verdict. You are expected to be there for the entire duration of the trial.