I’ve got jury duty and I can’t wait! Said no one ever (except maybe lawyers who almost never get to serve on a jury). You have just received your jury summons, making an already bad day worse. Now what do you do?
- Show up at court. When you receive a juror’s summons, it is an actual summons for you to appear in court. Failure to appear in court at the correct time can place you in contempt of court. Don’t make matters worse by failing to appear. I have seen different courts handle this in different ways, ranging from a mere scolding by the trial court judge to payment of a fine. The trial judge can even hold you in contempt and threaten you with jail (although I have never seen this happen, and state court judges are elected so I doubt it ever will happen). A trial judge in
Virginia recently gave 200 people who had been summoned for jury duty but who had failed to appear a lecture on the importance of the role of the jury in our judicial systems. “Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice,” Circuit Judge Jerrauld Jones told him at Friday’s court hearing, noting that the Founding Fathers thought they were so important, they put jury trials in the Bill of Rights. “Jury trials prevent tyranny,” Jones said. Judge Jones was, apparently, in a generous mood as he forgave their $100 fine and several people exclaimed “Thank you!” and “Bless the Lord!” when Jones told them he was dismissing the cases against them.
- Chances are slim you will actually sit on a jury. Jurors by the numbers: according to the National Center for State Courts, 32 Million Americans are summoned for jury duty nationwide, 3 Million people report physically for jury duty, and only 1.5 Million actually serve on a jury. Statistically, you have a good chance of never serving on a jury.
- Get helpful information in advance. Every court in Georgia how has a website with helpful information about jury duty, e.g., when to arrive, where to go, where to park, whether parking will be paid, how long to expect to be there. Just Google the name of the court and you’ll find that information. For example, in Fulton County, where I often try cases, there is a wealth of helpful information for jurors so you’ll know what to expect before you get to court.
- Jurors are not “selected,” they are de-selected. The jury of 12 that ultimately decides a case are essentially the jurors who are left over after the jurors who have indicated some sort of pre-judgment or bias about the particular case have been struck and sent home. Jury selection is a process of elimination. Those folks who,for some reason, shouldn’t be the ones deciding a particular case are “struck” from the jury and whoever is left is your jury. We do not pick people out of a jury panel we like and get to have them sit on the jury.
- Your jury service probably won’t be so bad. Really. Trust me. Most courts have a system in place for juror called “one day or one trial.” If placed on a jury, you must serve for the length of that one trial. If not placed on a jury, you must serve just one day in the jury sitting room waiting to be called and then you are sent home. If you go through jury selection and are not on the final jury, you are usually allowed to go home (except in Federal Court). So your service won’t be that long, and chances are you will actually enjoy it. A jury in King County, Washington liked jury duty so much they wrote in to the local newspaper to rave about what a wonderful experience it was. Maybe you’ll have the same experience. Remember, if you ever have to have a trial for yourself or your family, wouldn’t you want jurors like you hearing your case?
Robin Frazer Clark pursues justice for those who have personal injury claims as a result of being injured in motor vehicle wrecks, trucking wrecks, defective products, defective maintenance of roads, premises safety, medical malpractice and other incidents caused by the negligence of others. Ms. Clark is the 50th President of the State Bar of Georgia and a Past President of Georgia Trial Lawyers Association and has practiced law in Georgia for 28 years. Mrs. Clark is listed as one of the Top 50 Women Trial Lawyers in Georgia and is a Georgia Super Lawyer. Robin Frazer Clark~Dedicated to the Constitution’s Promise of Justice for All.