THE IMPORTANCE OF JURY DUTY
A friend of ours was recently called for jury duty. He is a busy man at work and at home, and does not really have the time. But he is going to serve because he knows that the right to a jury trial is an important Constitutional right, and the obligation to serve on a jury is an important service to the country.
The right to a jury trial is stated in the United States Constitution and also the Constitution of the State of Minnesota. (U.S. Const, Amend. 7; Minn.Const. art. 1, Sec 4.) It has been a part of our legal system since the founding of our country – the right to be judged by a panel of ordinary citizens rather than an appointed official. Jury trials are used in both criminal cases and civil cases in state and federal courts.
At our firm, most of our jury trials involve personal injury cases where we are asking for compensation for our injury client. In every trial our lawyers have participated in, we sincerely appreciate, and are actually moved, by the jury process and people’s willingness to serve and decide disputes in this civil way. We have found that people take jury service very seriously, they carefully listen to the evidence, and they try to come to the right decision in each case.
Qualifications for Jury Duty
In Minnesota state court trials, a person can be called for jury duty if he or she is:
(1) A citizen of the United States.
(2) At least 18 years old.
(3) A resident of the county.
(4) Able to communicate in the English language.
(5) Physically and mentally capable of rendering satisfactory jury service. A person claiming disability may be required to submit a physician’s certificate as to the disability, and the Judge may inquire of the certifying physician. A prospective qualified juror who is 70 years of age or older, who requests to be excused from jury service shall be automatically excused from service without having to submit evidence of an inability to serve.
(6) A person who has had their civil rights restored if they have been convicted of a felony.
(7) A person who has not served as a state or federal grand or petit juror in the past four years.
How Jurors Are Selected
The voter registration and drivers’ license list for the county serve as the source list. The source list may be supplemented with names from other lists specified in the jury administration plan. Whoever has custody, possession, or control of the lists used in compiling the source list shall provide them to the jury commissioner, upon request and for a reasonable fee, at any reasonable time. All lists shall contain the name and address of each person on the list.
The source list must be used for the random selection of names or identifying numbers of prospective jurors to whom qualification questionnaires and summonses for service must be sent.
Length of Jury Duty
The time that a person is called upon to perform jury service and be available for jury service is the shortest period consistent with the needs of justice.
(a) In counties with a population of 100,000 or more, a term of service must not exceed two weeks or the completion of one trial, whichever is longer.
(b) In counties with a population of less than 100,000 but more than 50,000, a term of service must not exceed two months. However, no person is required to continue to serve after the person has reported to the courthouse for ten days or after the completion of the trial on which the juror is sitting, whichever is longer.
(c) In counties with a population of less than 50,001 a term of service must not exceed four months. However, no person is required to continue to serve after the person has reported to the courthouse for ten days or after the completion of the trial on which the juror is sitting, whichever is longer.
(d) Chief judges and judicial district administrators shall review the frequency of juror use in each county in determining the shortest period of jury service that will enable the greatest number of citizens to have the opportunity to report to the courthouse and participate in the jury system. All courts shall adopt the shortest period of jury service that is practical.
Compensation of Jurors
The compensation a person receives for jury service is minimal and mostly works to reimburse travel expense. The statute states: A juror shall be reimbursed for round-trip travel between the juror’s residence and the place of holding court and compensated for required attendance at sessions of court and may be reimbursed for additional day care expenses incurred as a result of jury duty at rates determined by the Supreme Court. A juror may request reimbursement for additional parking expenses incurred as a result of jury duty, in which case the reimbursement shall be paid and the juror’s compensation for required attendance at sessions of court shall be reduced by the amount of the parking reimbursement.
What About My Job If I Am Gone For Jury Duty?
It is a crime in Minnesota for an employer to terminate an employee because of the employee’s absence for jury service. Many employers will continue to pay employees their regular wages while the employee is away for jury service, but of course there will be work to make up when the employee gets back. We always hope that these outside commitments don’t distract the juror from focusing on the case being presented.
If you are called for jury duty, please go and try your best to make the right decision in any case you are asked to serve on as a juror. It is a service to your community and your county so that we can all rely on fair treatment under the law.