You have been notified to show up for Jury Duty. Do you have to show?

Occasionally, we get calls from clients who have received a notice from the Courts to show up for Jury Duty.  Usually, they relate that they have busy lives and responsibilities and don’t want to take time to serve.  Do they have to appear?

First, from a legal perspective, yes, you do have to show.  The summons form the Court is a legal notice that is ignored at your peril.  You could be arrested and serve time for contempt of Court if you fail to comply.

Second, if the dates you have been summoned to Jury Duty are temporarily inconvenient, it can be fairly easy to schedule your service to another time.  This is because the Jury Commissioner is glad to have cooperation from responsible citizens.  It is, of course, responsible citizens who have jobs, civic responsibilities, and family obligationss and it is that type of citizen that the officials are delighted to see serve on jurys.

Further, if your life circumstances — work travel schedule, health issues, family duties —  simply makes it impossible to serve, it is possible to be formally excused from jury service.  This can be handled informally, or by formal motion to the Court.

However, we advise clients to make every attempt to cooperate in serving on jury duty.  It is always interesting.  And, even though you typically are summoned to serve for two weeks, most jurors really serve just a few days.  And finally, consider if we take from jury duty the responsible citizens who hold jobs, raise families and have active civic involvement, then to whom are we relegating jury duty?  Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys want intelligent, engaged, active, jurors who have diverse life experiences to whom to present and argue the tough cases.  If those with your unique background refuse to serve, aren’t the participants deprived of your life experience and knowledge?

Consider serving if you possibly can fit it in..