Serving on a Jury? What You Need to Know
If you have been summoned to serve on a jury, congratulations! You can now say that you have performed your civic duties in service to your community. In the United States, we have unique laws that protect an individual’s right to a trial by jury, a right that doesn’t exist in many other places. This right is granted to us in the U.S. Constitution, specifically, the 7th Amendment. According to a survey conducted by the American Bar Association, 75% of Americans believe that a trial by jury is the most fair method of determining guilt and obtaining justice.
I Got My Summons. What’s Next?
So, you have received notice that you are to appear at the courthouse for jury duty. While it may seem like an inconvenience to your plans or job, think of it as an opportunity to affect the outcome of a situation in your community. Jury duty is a great way to learn a little more about both criminal and civil justice, and it affords you a chance to make a difference.
The first thing you will do is respond to your summons. Even though not every summons results in a jury service, in order for the system to work, you are required to at least respond to the request to serve. Refusing to respond to a summons can result in fines and jail time. If you cannot serve for a legitimate reason (for example, if you are pregnant and your summons is near your due date), you can simply call the courthouse and speak with someone about informing the judge of your mitigating circumstance.
Jury selection, or “vois dire,” is the part of the process where jurors are eliminated or withheld based on their potential suitability for the trial. This process is determined by both the plaintiff and the defendant’s legal team. Both attorneys are given a predetermined allowance of immediate dismissals any juror they deem unfit, without having to reveal a reason.
If you are chosen to serve on a jury, you will be paid for your time, though it may not be commensurate with your regular pay from your job. Louisiana in particular limits compensation to between $15 and $20 a day plus mileage. Some government agencies and private corporations agree to pay their employees for their time while they serve their civic duties. Check with your particular workplace to find out their policy about paid leave for jurors.
What Am I Responsible For?
A modern juror is simply expected to weigh the evidence and arguments presented to you. You will be asked to determine if witnesses are credible in their testimony. You will be tasked with making a decision based on your instincts, your understanding of both sides of the case, and your determination of the truth. You are asked to keep an open mind until all evidence has been presented and both sides have had their chance to explain their point of view.
If you are interested in finding out more about being a juror in Lafayette parish, visit the Clerk of Court’s website here.