Jury Duty: Why we Serve and Why It’s Important

Jury duty is defined as the obligation to act or a period of acting as a member of a jury in a court of law. As a United States citizen, you can receive a summons from a federal or state court to appear for jury selection and if you are chosen, you will serve on a jury.

Upon receiving a jury summons, you may feel inconvenienced or uninterested in participating. Serving on a jury is important for many reasons and should be looked at as an opportunity rather than a burden. Jury trials educate jurors about the justice system, allow jurors to see how the justice system operates in their community and award jurors the opportunity to participate directly in our democracy.

 Thomas Jefferson once said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

Am I Qualified to Serve?

To be legally qualified to serve on a jury for a criminal or civil trial. You must:

  • be a United States citizen;
  •  be at least 18 years old;
  • reside primarily in the judicial district for one year;
  • be adequately proficient in English to satisfactorily complete the juror qualification form;
  •  have no disqualifying physical or mental condition;
  • never have been convicted of a felony;
  • not currently be subject to felony charges punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.

Members of the armed forces on active duty, members of a professional fire and police department and public officers of federal, state or local governments who are actively engaged full-time in the performance of public duty are barred from serving on federal juries.

How is Someone Selected for Jury Duty?

Before you receive your summons, potential jurors are selected from the community using lists that refer to voter registrations and drivers license renewals. Once the lists are compiled, those on them will receive a summons in the mail. Potential jurors will then have to report to the court for jury selection which typically lasts half a day to a full day.

During jury selection, attorneys working for both the plaintiff and the defendant will question potential jurors in a process called voir dire. Voir dire, which is French for “to speak the truth”, is defined as the process that potential jurors from the venire are questioned by either a judge or a lawyer to determine their suitability for jury duty.

During voir dire, potential jurors will be asked basic questions about their lives and if they know any of the lawyers, judges or other potential jurors in the courtroom. Then they will be asked more specific questions that relate to the case.

For example, if these potential jurors will be serving on a civil case involving a car accident, they may be asked if they have ever been in a car accident or sued someone for injuring them.

Once the potential jurors have been questioned, lawyers can seek to have potential jurors removed due to challenges for cause (a juror being unqualified to serve), bias or peremptory challenges.

Will my Employer Compensate me for my service?

Your employer is not required by federal law to continue your salary during jury service but the Jury Act forbids any employer from firing, coercing or intimidating any permanent employee because of their federal jury service. Some states do require that employees are paid when they are serving jury duty. If you have questions about a specific case call an attorney today, like a jury duty lawyer in Las Vegas, NV.

Many employers choose to continue their employee’s salaries when they are serving jury duty regardless of if they are required to. According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68% of all US employees receive paid jury duty leave.

Thanks to Eglet Adams, for their insight into jury duty and its importance.