Understanding Jury Duty

Jury Duty
Jury Duty, More Than a Civic Duty

A jury summons comes in the mail and you may think, “I don’t have time for this!” or “I can’t take time off of work right now!” It is understandable that with jury service comes a few sacrifices, however, understanding jury duty and how your contribution makes a difference to our country’s judicial process, may help change your mind about this civic duty as a U.S. citizen.

First, think of yourself as partner or shareholder in your state and country. Then look at jury service as part of that responsibility, as a citizen and partner of this great nation. Jury service is the most common way in which we are able to participate in our country’s judicial process. Jury service, for the majority of people, is the most direct role they will ever have in the constitutional form of government here in the United States, with the exception of voting. In addition, serving as a juror can be a very interesting experience. The critical role that a juror plays in our justice system, i.e. being chosen for, and serving as a juror, is also a great honor, in addition to being our civic duty. Your service plays a huge part in ensuring there is a fair and impartial cross-section of the community deciding a case.

The Jury System

Today the most common system of jury service in the U.S. is the “One Day” or “One Trial” jury selection process. This means that when summoned to appear and report to jury duty, whether selected to be on a jury or not, your appearance in court is considered fulfilled with your “one day” requirement. After which, you may be excused from federal jury service for a period of two years.

Types of Jury Cases

There are 2 types of trials where juries are used:

  1. A criminal trial: This is when an individual is accused of committing a crime. A criminal jury consists of 12 people and alternates. Get more information on criminal trials.
  2. A civil trial: Evidence is examined to decide whether there was wrongdoing by the defendant.  A civil jury consists of at least 6 people. Get more information on civil trials.
Not All Lawyers are Trial Lawyers

It is important to know if your lawyer is an experienced trial lawyer. Trial lawyers and litigation lawyers or “litigators” bring different skills to a legal case.

Litigators handle most of the work that happens outside of the courtroom, like legal research, client meetings, filing lawsuits and motions, arguing motions and gathering evidence in an effort to defend their clients.

Trial attorneys can be very involved in the work outside of the courtroom as well, but the number one thing the experienced trial lawyer does is go to court and conduct trials.

Take Part in the Judicial Process

The judicial process in the U.S. takes its fair share of criticism but if we all play our part, it can be a very sound system. In a nation where one is “innocent until proven guilty” and has the right to a fair and impartial jury – know that none of this happens without the compliance and eagerness of the citizens of this country to provide justice.

Next time you receive a jury summons in the mail, perhaps think of it as being “called in” to serve, an opportunity take an active part in your nation’s judicial process. It is one of our bestowed responsibilities and should be viewed as more of an honor than a burden.

For more on jury service in the U.S. visit the U.S. Courts website.