I think I'd rather be shot with a tranquilizer dart...
September 26, 2008 9:41 PM   Subscribe

I just got a notice that I have been selected for jury duty and will need to be available during a 10-day period during the middle of October. If I can't get out of it, what can I expect during this time frame?

Also, I live in Kansas. How much is the "juror fee"?

Speaking of getting out of this, I already filled out and sent back the form saying that I did not have an excuse, but I am wondering if I can go back on that now (they did give very little time to send the form back). I work part-time at the local Humane Society. While I do not work full time (I do usually work 25-30), it would be difficult to fill my shifts because I work in Isolation, which is a difficult area, and the Humane Society is perpetually under-staffed. If I can get a note from my employer stating that it would cause difficulty to have to cover my shifts, would that be sufficient? If so, should I wait until I have to go to the court house or show up with the note beforehand?

Also, and this would be the lesser of my possible excuses, I have real trouble sitting still for long periods. Couldn't do it in grade school, can't do it now. Desk jobs almost killed me and I need to work more physically active jobs to not become depressed. Is this worth anything as an excuse?

Thank you.
posted by melangell to Law & Government (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Bring a book, laptop, personal music player, yo-yo...you will probably sit in a room with a boat load of people for at least seven hours on the first day. You might get a civics peptalk from an official- usually a judge.

If you are actually called for duty, which is slim, you will proceed to further juror selection process and possilbly sit on a jury.

Mostly though, you will be sitting around.
posted by captainsohler at 10:10 PM on September 26, 2008

your employer is the best bet to get out of this. Not being able to sit still is not a disability.
posted by captainsohler at 10:11 PM on September 26, 2008

Not being able to sit still is not a disability.

Unless you have ADHD in which case it is a disability. But at this point it certainly isn't worth the time, money and effort to be diagnosed ;)

agreeing that going through you employer is your best bet.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 10:29 PM on September 26, 2008

In California, jurors call in first to see if they are needed. It is not uncommon to have to check in every day but never have to actually go to court. If you do go to the courthouse, you wait in the jury room for your group to be assigned to a trial (which usually does happen but sometimes you can have a few hours wait). Then you go to the judge's courtroom. Once, the defendant copped aplea while we were waiting so we all got to go home. They then call up the first set up jurors and start the interview process. The judge doesn't want to hear about any excuses until a certain stage of the interview. Most trials only last about a week so the judges tend to be very tough on job excuses - for example being self-employed and not able to make any money is not good enough for a short trial. If you have a medical excuse that says that you are not able to sit for a full day for health reasons, it might well work if it is signed by a real doctor (or a psychologist if you are being treated for ADD). If you come to the courthouse and don't get assigned a trial or if you are assigned a trial and jury is empanelled without you (they call 30-60 per trial) then you get to go home and won't get summoned again for at least a year. (Note this is all based on personal experience in California.)

FYI - once you are assigned to a specific trial, you are expected to sit quietly and listen whenever the judge is in the room (no reading, no headphones).
posted by metahawk at 10:37 PM on September 26, 2008

I'm in Indiana, was on call, had to call in each morning to find out if I had to come in. Never had to, found myself wishing I had been.
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:12 AM on September 27, 2008

What captainsohler said. If you do end up having to actually go in, bring stuff to do. Unless you enjoy the freakshow that is voter-roll-humanity, with all its inane conversation-with-other-bored-strangers, chronic coughing/throat-clearing/snot-sucking, and poor personal hygiene; then you'll be in heaven.
posted by Rykey at 10:05 AM on September 27, 2008

When I was summonsed this summer (for county court), each jury trial had to have 30-40 people available in order to empanel 12, and only three of the four trials that day actually went to the jury selection stage. So that's 36 people empaneled out of 140 responding to the summons, serving for two days on average if the clerk was telling me the truth.

I was in the pool for the fourth trial, so no selection for me; they sent me home after half a day and kept me on call for two more. My mileage reimbursement (for ten miles each way) exceeded my time reimbursement, but neither was over twenty bucks, so don't expect a lot there. (I never expected the check from the county to compensate me for my public responsibilities; I reckon the check compensates for the incidental inconvenience, and my compensation for the responsibilities is the little thing we call the Bill of Rights.) Finally, those who actually served on jury were exempted from further duty for a year, but those who were not empaneled had no such out. Guess Washington state is a bit stricter than California there.

There'll be lots of waiting; bring a book. (And if you're like me, you may also need a reminder to leave your pocketknife at home.)
posted by eritain at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2008

Here's how to get out of serving. Have a opinion and or preconceived notion on EVERYTHING.
they want jurors with open minds. you will fill out a survey most likely 1st thing. tell them you've been a crime victim, your step brother is a cop or you don't like cops, if someone gets arrested they MUST be guilty, etc. get it?
posted by patnok at 2:13 PM on September 27, 2008

I'll address your trying to get out of it first. You didn't say where in Kansas you are, but unless you're in a rural area where everybody knows everybody, I don't see any of your potential excuses as carrying much weight with the judge. Lots of people think they're irreplaceable at work, but when push comes to shove, very few actually are. In general, the trend is to broaden the pool of potential jurors by including people who used to get a pass-- like lawyers. And as for the inability to sit around-- unless you get a note from a doctor saying it's a medical condition, then I don't see that one flying either. And even a doctor's note might not be enough-- after all, you had your chance to tell them about your condition and didn't do it then.

As for people recommending giving answers that will make the lawyers not want you-- I guess if you're a big enough jerk, neither side will want you, but you'd better be careful. Chances are, both sides have googled you, found out something about your education level and field of study, maybe your political contributions, and so on. Lying in court has consequences, like fines and jail and a criminal record. It's happened before.

That said, my recommendation, as someone who tries a couple of cases a year to juries (far more than most people who aren't doing criminal work), is just go and do your duty. A book is always good-- escapist fiction in your preferred genre is what I do for any situation where I have to sit and wait for something beyond my control...like a jury returning a verdict. And I have a broader, gentler view of my fellow humans than some prior respondents. First, the jury pool is a lot broader than it used to be, so the old saw about the jury only being made up of people too dumb to get off jury duty simply isn't true any more. Every panel I've seen in the last few years has included a true cross-section of the community-- the way it should be. If you ever have something that goes to a jury trial, you wouldn't want a jury of people too stupid to get out jury duty, I don't think. You're part of the community, and this is one of the rare things the community actually asks of its citizens.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 7:56 PM on September 27, 2008

Based on my recent experience in Los Angeles, you might also want to have backing information if you decide to try the "my brother/husband/mother/cousin/uncle/friend/wife/etc is a cop" routine. The judge will always follow up with "Do you know their current assignment?" One chick actually came out with the Secret Service while the another guy said his son-in-law was in Homeland Security.

Needless to say, also make sure the back-up information is accurate.....
posted by arishaun at 9:35 PM on September 29, 2008

I did not get out of jury duty by having a cop relative at all. Just so you know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:52 AM on October 1, 2008

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