What should I do about skipped jury duty?
October 11, 2005 9:03 PM   Subscribe

A few years ago, I ignored a summons to jury duty (U.S. District Court, if that's relevant). I didn't intentionally shirk my civic duty. I just completely forgot to deal with it promptly. Am I in a lot of trouble? What's the best way to handle this responsibly and avoid any unpleasant surprises?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (10 answers total)
I was illegal when I received my jury duty. Never showed up, never got a reply. They have no proof that they delievered the letter, correct?
posted by mrkredo at 9:06 PM on October 11, 2005

In rare cases, a judge might compel no-show jurors to appear, sending out a bailiff or a deputy, but skipping out is so common that most of the time they never bother.

Sometimes localities do have trouble getting juries together on a regular basis, and in these instances they might fine people or some such, but if it was years ago, they've long since gotten over the pain your not showing caused and gotten on with their lives.
posted by dhartung at 10:39 PM on October 11, 2005

A few years ago? IANAL, but if you haven't heard about it yet, you're really not likely to hear about it at any point in the future.

Just for a second, think of all of the hundreds and thousands of people who just blow off their jury duty. Yeah, maybe a few of them get a piece of angry sounding paperwork but can you imagine the manpower and resources that'd have to be devoted to processing the paperwork on jury duty no-shows in order to penalize all of those people?
On the other hand, that department could just consist of two sad, flabby, pale, naked-mole-rat-looking guys, sharing a desk in the damp basement of a municipal building and the reason that you haven't heard anything about it is because those two poor souls are so back-logged that they're still trying to contact people who skipped their jury duty back in 1977.
posted by Jon-o at 11:10 PM on October 11, 2005

I missed a jury duty appointment a couple years ago. I got a letter in the mail a month or so later telling me I'd missed it and that I'd better call and reschedule. I did. It was no big deal. If I hadn't gotten the letter, I would probably have never realized that I'd missed it. You could do some research into your area's jury duty laws, but I wouldn't worry about it much.

My experience with jury duty so far has basically been a waste of time. I've never even made it to the jury selection phase. I got summoned to appear last week, and after about 15min in the waiting room they dismissed everyone. It seems the courtrooms that they had thought would be ready to seat juries weren't. I'd be happy to serve on a jury, but it doesn't seem like it's going to happen at this rate. If your area is similarly overwhelmed by too many jurors, I can't imagine they care much about one person not showing.
posted by aneel at 11:41 PM on October 11, 2005

28 U.S.C. § 1866(g):

Any person summoned for jury service who fails to appear as directed shall be ordered by the district court to appear forthwith and show cause for his failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to show good cause for noncompliance with a summons may be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than three days, or both.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:25 AM on October 12, 2005

Oops, make that 28 U.S.C. ยง 1866(g).
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:26 AM on October 12, 2005

Go and tell them you teach a formal logic course.
posted by geoff. at 6:42 AM on October 12, 2005

Anecdotal: A friend of mine in college intentionally blew off his jury duty. A few years later, a cop pulled him over (speeding or something similar), and ran his name through the computer. A judge put out a warrant for him when he skipped the jury duty, and the cop almost arrested him for it.

A huge deal? Probably not. But if you can clean it up now, why risk the hassle later on?
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:49 AM on October 12, 2005

Issuing a warrant for failure to respond to a jury duty notice is exceptionally rare. Why? Because (dirty little secret) a very large percentage of people don't respond - far too many to issue warrants on. (As a civil servant, would you want to issue warrants for tens of thousands of people?) Issuing warrants cost money; arresting people costs money; disposing of such cases in court would cost a lot of money. And what about bad addresses (see below)?

District of Columbia - 50% don't respond, many because of bad addresses (pdf; sidebar, page 1)

Harris County, Texas - 17% show up; the other 83% either get excused or simply don't respond

In 2000, 17 percent of all Californians summoned to jury duty failed to show up for it.

The only way to confirm whether an individual actually received his or her order would be to send it through certified mail with a return receipt requested, officials say. But that would boost the cost to more than $4 per mailing, meaning it is not cost-effective to investigate those who fail to appear. (cite)
posted by WestCoaster at 4:20 PM on October 12, 2005

At my first real job, at a NYC advertising agency, we would send the judge the following:

Ms. Smith is working on a confidential and urgent client matter, and our business would be materially affected by her absence due to jury duty. Therefore we request a waiver at this time.

We would send out the same letter every time.

The irony, of course, is that educated professionals are often excluded from juries. They weren't really shirking their duties, they were shirking sitting around in a courthouse waiting for a five-minute interview and immediate dismissal.
posted by dhartung at 8:53 PM on October 12, 2005

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