I would be happy to stand trial...some other time.
January 21, 2012 9:23 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to minimize my chances of being picked for jury duty?

To start, I'm in BC, Canada.

I have been summoned for jury duty occurring within two weeks. I am qualified for jury duty; ie. I am not in any of the categories listed as exemptions (incapable of English, age, student, etc). Normally I would not have any problems with going to fulfill my civic duty and wouldn't care one way or another whether I am chosen or not. As I do not fit in the categories for disqualification, I have confirmed my attendance for the jury summons/selection several weeks ago.

Then I realized the following within the last two days:

1) a fitness class I signed up for months ago (long before I got the summons, in fact, so long that I'd forgotten about it until my calendar reminded me) starts two days after jury selection begins. It cannot be rescheduled due to other classes conflicting with my unusual work hours (it was rare I found one in my price range that worked with my work). The criminal trial is estimated to take a month; for the number of classes I'd miss I'd have to withdraw.

2) I was informed yesterday that the window to be eligible for compensation of my rehabilitative therapy ends the same week that the jury selection is scheduled, and as I haven't used the allotted amount very much (I was misinformed), I'd best schedule as many appointments as possible for the next two weeks. (Time is not negotiable, extensions not allowed. Trust me.) Any appointment I have with my therapist will directly conflict with the jury duties.

3) A medical appointment I had previously scheduled is on the day right after start of jury selection. I could reschedule this, but it's difficult to schedule given staffing, I need to be in a certain personal condition, and that I need to have this appointment done within a few weeks. This is rescheduleable, but difficult to.

Any other time I'd be happy to serve on a jury, but not this time. Maybe for the class and the medical appointment I'd be out of luck regardless, but the out-of-my-control therapy and its timeline is really not my fault.

What would minimize my chances of being picked/get me dismissed ASAP, seeing as I technically am qualified? I think my reservations are reasonable, but in the face of civic duty they may not be good enough. Or, failing that, if I could even skip the three days immediately after jury selection day #1, that would be a good start.

(I realize that this may be dependent on region, but some general tips across all jury-selection in North America may apply.)
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
In the United States it's pretty well known that, if you display overt tendencies toward racism, sexism, etc., during voir dire, you likely will not be chosen for jury duty.

I don't know if voir dire occurs in Canada.
posted by dfriedman at 9:31 PM on January 21, 2012

Have you contacted the clerk at the court you're being summoned to? You might find a reasonable human being who would be willing to bump you by a month.
posted by flabdablet at 9:33 PM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

What would minimize my chances of being picked/get me dismissed ASAP, seeing as I technically am qualified?

In the U.S., postponements are routine, and I can't imagine it would be different in Canada. You should be able to get one no-questions-asked.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:35 PM on January 21, 2012 [8 favorites]

If not, maybe rehabilitative-therapy-related doctor's note?
posted by Iris Gambol at 9:36 PM on January 21, 2012

Your current reasons are BS and the court won't care. Phone now and ask for a postponement - that's usually not difficult. Then when your next chance comes up in a few weeks go in knowing how many days of jury service your job will pay for. In most biggish companies they'll pay your regular salary for 5 days of service. Of course, many companies don't pay at all. Find out for sure, and tell the court that if you're getting close to having to actually serve. They will generally ask if you have a hardship that will prevent you from serving.

I've been called for jury service many times. I've never gotten anywhere near selected, even though I'd actually like to serve. Back in the old days when you actually had to go to the courthouse for every day of service and just sit around and wait, I once got far enough to be called into a courtroom for what was going to be a very long case. When I said my company would only pay me for 5 days, I was dismissed. Nowadays in many jurisdictions you don't actually have to go in - you just have to call in each day and see if you're needed. The last two times I did that I was never even called into the courthouse. (Of course my hubby was called in on his first day and did end up on a trial. YMMV.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:43 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Um, oops. I didn't realize you are in Canada. Sorry, my advice pertains to the U.S.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:44 PM on January 21, 2012

When I was called for jury duty (U.S.) and had a conflict for medical appointments, it was pretty easy for me to reschedule for a different time slot. I would expect the situation may be similar in Canada.

When I did actually have jury duty and had to go in, I wore my work clothes to jury duty. It is somewhat physical work, and I wore jeans to work at that time. I knew if I wasn't picked for a jury I would be going to work after so wore my work clothes without thinking too much about it. Everything I wore was neat and clean and polished, but I was wearing jeans on jury duty. I never was picked for a jury, and I think the jeans were a contributing factor (I only picked up on this later).
posted by gudrun at 9:45 PM on January 21, 2012

I wore jeans to jury duty and got picked for a five-week murder trial. So don't assume that'll work.

I bet postponements are possible. Call and ask.
posted by rtha at 9:49 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Call for a postponement.

Barring that, wear a t-shirt proclaiming your belief in the principle of jury nullification.

But seriously, ask for a postponement.
posted by SMPA at 9:51 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

In the United States it's pretty well known that, if you display overt tendencies toward racism, sexism, etc., during voir dire, you likely will not be chosen for jury duty.

It is also pretty well known that if you are obviously acting up to try to avoid jury duty, you can be found to be in contempt of court. Judges don't have any sense of humor about it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:06 PM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

I was on a jury a year and a half ago in the U.S., and the judge was quite sensitive to issues like this. An acquaintance of mine in the pool was asked whether an ongoing health concern would affect her willingness to serve, and she was excused when she replied that an upcoming appointment was weighing on her mind. Judge and lawyers want a willing jury. I would just be honest.
posted by Occula at 10:19 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a criminal lawyer in B.C.

There is no "postponement" in Canada. That being said, it is not at all unusual for a jury to be picked, and then dismissed for a period of days until the evidence portion starts, so you may not need to be excused.

If the trial will be starting right away, simply lay out all your concerns about serving. It is exceedingly unlikely that the judge will excuse you based on what you've written (unless you have a medical note), but one of the lawyers may excuse you since they rarely want jurors who really don't want to be there. (on preview - as Occula wrote)

Also, depending on the size of the jury pool, they may not even get to you.

Best of luck.
posted by birdsquared at 10:32 PM on January 21, 2012 [9 favorites]

If you go the manufactured racist/sexist/what have you excuse, be prepared to have to say out loud that your racist/sexist/whatever opinions will prevent you from being fair in the case at hand. I think it would be hard to have to say that in front of others.
posted by anthropomorphic at 10:33 PM on January 21, 2012

My dad was a cop. I have been excused from every jury pool I have been in.
posted by vignettist at 10:34 PM on January 21, 2012 [3 favorites]

My friend's dad's PhD in Chemistry seemed to grant him an exit off of jury duty each time they asked him what he did.

My mom got off duty by saying she'd be biased against a drug dealer caught dealing in a school zone.

But yes, basically, exhibiting attitudes counter to the defense's jury requirements makes you get not selected.

U.S. examples. Your mileage will vary.
posted by Strudel at 11:21 PM on January 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Where I live they pretty much assume that the time they call you for jury duty will conflict with your schedule, so they simply allow you to reschedule to any date in the next year. You can do this online, even. So most courts are familiar with the idea that people have lives and jury duty does not always come at a convenient time. Definitely ask for a postponement, but be prepared to say when would be better.

If you can't get a deferment, here are some things I understand that will probably get you kicked off a jury:

1. An engineering or scientific background
2. Armchair interest in law (I used this accidentally once, they asked each prospective juror what we considered a pressing legal issue and I said some stuff about intellectual property)
3. Clear bias for or against either party on any basis
4. A close relationship to someone connected with the case, especially blood relationship including marriage, or a supervisory relationship at work -- basically where you would give credence (or lack thereof) to their testimony based on your previous knowledge of their character

My last trip to the courthouse for jury duty was just this past December and #3 is what kicked me off in the end. The defendant was representing himself, doing a conspicuously bad job of it even during voir dire, so naturally one of the questions was whether we felt we could give him a fair trial despite this. I was honestly afraid that his clear incompetence would either cause me to give less credence to him than I should, or that I would overcompensate and give him more credence than I should, and the problem was that I couldn't tell in advance which way I'd lean, but I was pretty sure I'd be leaning one way or another. Both sides were anxious to get me out of the jury box after I told them that, but it was the defense that had my number that day.
posted by kindall at 12:12 AM on January 22, 2012

My dad was a cop. I have been excused from every jury pool I have been in.

A former coworker whose son is a cop reports the same.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:31 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's worth bearing in mind that Canada is not the USA and that Canadian civil procedure is likely to be different from that in the USA. As birdsquared has pointed out, there is no postponement in Canada, for one thing.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:45 AM on January 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do not go with a manufactured racist, sexist or whatever opinion. You really don't want to tick off a judge and have them give you a contempt of court, and you don't want to try so hard to get yourself out of jury duty with something similar and manufactured that you end up with a contempt charge, your life will be much more miserable.

My dad has spent aeons (OK, only like 40 years (; ) as a trial attorney and says that the biggest concern for the attorney is knowing how the people in the jury will think- I'm phrasing this badly, but they want to be able to predict how the jury will react to various evidence presented, and so forth. Because of that, he will never seat people who appear super artsy, liberal, left wing creative, work in creative fields or are artists because he feels that they will be thinking way out of left field & approach matters in a way he wouldn't necessarily consider. Bear in mind that this is "appears artsy" based entirely on clothes and mannerisms for the hour or two in the courtroom. He does civil trials, so no idea if this holds in criminal cases, but it's one thing to consider. But again, he doesn't like to seat other people who really don't want to be there because

As for the "knowledge of law" part - that might not work. I was called for a jury for a civil case that was extremely similar to the kind of law my dad practices, said that I had a father who tried similar cases which I talked to him about all the time, and was told that was fine. I ended up being excused for an entirely different reason. If it's a very complex case, the attorneys might want people who have a bit of background so that they can more easily follow all the charges, or complicated scenarios that might come up, and so forth.
posted by lyra4 at 4:54 AM on January 22, 2012

My father got his jury duty postponed when he was called up just before a pile of religious holidays (he was recalled four or six months later and picked for the jury then), and a friend was just deferred for three years because his job doesn't pay and it would be a financial hardship. This was in Quebec and Ontario, respectively.
posted by jeather at 4:56 AM on January 22, 2012

Ah, I lost the end of my second paragraph. "he doesn't like to seat other people who really don't want to be there because they are just not going to pay attention and he needs their attention."
posted by lyra4 at 4:56 AM on January 22, 2012

Had a friend who simply said he did not believe the system was fair or just, ever. And that he would in any and all cases vote Not Guilty. He was excused.
posted by Postroad at 5:07 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Claim you know cops or lawyers. If you get picked for a trial claim you know someone who was in a similar situation.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:47 AM on January 22, 2012

Here in the US, I was selected for a civil trial along with a woman who was super artsy by profession-- and dressed as such-- and I was probably the second most artsy person in the pool. The other woman got herself excused after being selected. She had some semi-legitimate reasons, but she didn't mention them to anyone official until after we were selected. The judge let her go and we went on minus a juror. This woman clearly thought she should never be selected and had a mild freak-out when she was. I don't think that would be something you could plan on to work.

There was one of those questions about whether you could have a fair and balanced opinion about a certain topic. It certainly did seem like all it took to get excused was saying, "No." The other people excused included a guy who slept through the voir dire. They woke him up and he gave fairly comical answers to the judge. No idea if that was planned to get out of serving or if he was just like that.
posted by BibiRose at 6:07 AM on January 22, 2012

Oh, now I come to think about it, I was selected for that jury despite telling a (true) story about being a party in a very similar lawsuit. I thought for sure that would get me excused, but it didn't. The judge said, "That is a really funny story." I don't think he meant that he thought I was making it up, although he might have.

I was once told by a litigation lawyer that my father would never be selected for a jury because his lips are too thin and that makes him look judgmental. "You don't want that guy on a jury, with those thin lips." Maybe you should go in and kind of squeeze your lips together.
posted by BibiRose at 6:19 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your current reasons are BS and the court won't care.

Not true. I work in a criminal courthouse every day and judges and jury commissioners (the official in charge of calling people in fir jury duty) are very sensitive to reasons like you have.

Don't do the manufactured racist/sexist/bigot thing. For one thing it's illegal to lie as a prospective juror ... and surely ydoggie only looking for legal/ethical ways get out of jury service.
posted by jayder at 6:46 AM on January 22, 2012

fir = for
Ydoggie? = you are
posted by jayder at 6:48 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

A while back, I asked a sort-of opposite question that you may be interested in reading.
posted by box at 8:53 AM on January 22, 2012

People need to realize that in Canada, the jurors are not asked questions by the lawyers when empanelled. All the lawyers know are your name, city of residence, and occupation.

The judge will ask if there's any reason you can't sit, and to be honest the excuses you've given may not fly.

At my last jury trial (in BC) earlier this winter, we rejected people who looked too artsy, as someone mentioned above. A guy with a wacky haircut whose occupation was listed as dancer got the axe. We also rejected people who seemed reluctant to serve but were kept on by the judge.

The judge we had was more sympathetic than most, and let off a few people who were breadwinners or had to travel for work. But a fitness class and a reschedulable medical appointment? You're better off showing up and assuming you won't get picked on numbers alone.

Very few people WANT to be jurors. The inconvenience it causes you will be as inconvenient or more to someone else. Please do the right thing.
posted by Pomo at 9:02 AM on January 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you get far enough in they will interview you individually. I was being considered for a murder case and straight up told them that I didn't handle violence well and would be emotionally shaken up and probably useless for decision making. They let me go.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2012

Given the state of BC's medical system, if the appointment is with a specialist (or to get a test done for a specialist), it's probably your best bet for getting excused by the judge. Everybody in BC is well aware that wait times for seeing specialists are crazy insane. This is even more true if you are not in Vancouver or Victoria.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:49 AM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fastest elimination I saw when I went through this process was for a guy wearing hot pants and a leather jacket.
posted by ecourbanist at 1:20 PM on January 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Troublewithwolves, that's not correct, in this jurisdiction.
posted by Pomo at 1:20 PM on January 22, 2012

I am conspicuously artsy and have a cop relative and I have done jury duty twice. Last time there was a chick in with me who conspicuously pouted and hated jury duty and they kept her. I don't think most of the "wives' tales" stuff here works.

I think this stuff is going to vary from case to case and judge to judge, and I don't even know the differences in Canada. But from what I have seen of the folks who did get off, they either:

(a) had enough personal/background knowledge of something in the case to spook the lawyers. If you have a relative who's been arrested for whatever the hell the criminal case is, you'll get off because you're probably biased about the situation. If you have had cops at your work recently making trouble, you'll get off (my coworkers got off jury duty recently for that) because they fear bias. If you like to hunt and fish and the case involves a hunting license, you'll get off. They want someone who doesn't know jackola about whatever the case entails.

(b) spoke no English-- and lemme tell ya, they took about 20 minutes to establish that this guy really, really didn't speak or comprehend what was going on at all.

(c) was a total gangsta hoodlum dude. Who went on for longer than the guy with no English-- interview might have been a half hour. He went in there with all his tats and hoodlum outfit and "fuck da police" attitude and of course he's been arrested and his girlfriend has and all his friends have... basically he was a walking bias. And it still took a loooooot of time to interview him to make sure he wasn't making it up, I suppose. If you can put on a show of bigotry for that long and convincingly keep it up...

Remember, they WANT you on that jury. They are looking for any and all reasons NOT to disqualify you if your number comes up because it makes the process longer with every one they have to rule out. There's not a lot of "automatic disqualification" that I have seen going on there. They ask and ask and ask. You'd better be a convincing liar if you are going to put on that sort of show to try to get out.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2012

Claim you know cops or lawyers. If you get picked for a trial claim you know someone who was in a similar situation.

I was on a jury this past summer and while they dismissed many people with ties to law enforcement, one of my co-jurors was married to a cop. Oh and the court case was about the defendants assaulting police officers while on duty. So the "I know/am related law enforcement officers" tactic doesn't work uniformly.
posted by mmascolino at 9:00 PM on January 22, 2012

Ask for a postponement. Explain about the medical stuff. Do NOT mention the fitness class.

In case you are denied a postponement, just indicate that you have prior knowledge of the case due to rumor via a friend of a friend and would be biased. That generally gets you kicked off.

Despite being selected for jury duty four times, I've never been called. I really would like to serve. Unfortunately, the only case I've ever had a shot at was a case of child molestation. I've got a bit of a trigger in cases like this, and because of certain aspects of this case, I was pretty squikked. I spoke to the judge in private, and asked HIM for advice. He opted to allow for elimination. Maybe next time.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:29 PM on January 22, 2012

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