Jury Service and Selection Act

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The Jury Selection and Service Act, 28 U.S.C. §§ 1861, et seq., (Jury Act) provides the judicial structure for the selection of federal juries.

The Jury Act embodies two important general principles:

  • Random selection of potential jurors from a fair cross section of the community, and
  • All qualified citizens have the opportunity to be considered for jury service.

Selection of Jurors

Before potential jurors are summoned for service, their names are randomly drawn from voters lists (and sometimes drivers lists) to receive a questionnaire to determine whether they meet the legal qualifications for jury service. Individuals who receive questionnaires are required to complete and return them to the clerk's office, which then screens the completed questionnaires to determine eligibility for jury service. (In some courts, qualification questionnaires and summonses are mailed together.)

Any person who fails to return a completed qualification questionnaire may be summoned to appear before the clerk of the court to fill out the form.

Eligibility for federal jury service is dependent both upon an individual meeting the legal qualifications for service and upon the random chance of having one's name drawn from the source lists.

Each judicial district must have a formal written plan for the selection of jurors, which provides for random selection from a fair cross-section of the community in the district, and which prohibits discrimination in the selection process. Voter records — either voter registration lists or lists of actual voters — are the required source of names for federal court juries. Some courts supplement voter lists with other sources, such as lists of licensed drivers.

Juror Qualifications, Exemptions and Excuses

To be legally qualified for jury service, an individual must:

  • be a United States citizen;
  • be at least 18 years of age;
  • reside primarily in the judicial district for one year;
  • be adequately proficient in English;
  • have no disqualifying mental or physical condition;
  • not currently be subject to felony charges; and
  • never have been convicted of a felony (unless civil rights have been legally restored)
  • There are three groups that are exempt from federal jury service:
  • members of the armed forces on active duty;
  • members of professional fire and police departments; and
  • "public officers" of federal, state or local governments, who are actively engaged full-time in the performance of public duties.

Persons belonging to these groups may not serve on federal juries, even if they so desire.

Excuses from Jury Service

Many courts offer excuses from service, on individual request, to designated groups of persons or occupational classes. Such groups may include persons over age 70; persons who have, within the past two years, served on a federal jury; and persons who serve as volunteer fire fighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew.

The Jury Act also allows courts to permanently excuse a juror from service at the time he or she is summoned on the grounds of "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience" if the distance to the courthouse makes it difficult for the juror to travel. The juror should write a letter to the clerk of court requesting an excuse with an explanation of hardship.

Excuses for jurors are granted at the discretion of the court and cannot be reviewed or appealed to Congress or any other entity.

Temporary Deferrals

The Jury Act allows courts to grant temporary deferrals of service on the grounds of "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience." The juror summons provides specific information on how to request a deferral from the court summoning the juror.

Temporary deferrals for jurors are granted at the discretion of the court and cannot be reviewed or appealed to Congress or any other entity.

Click here to download the full text of the regulations.

Source: U. S. Courts

Updated 12/3/08

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