The Dreaded Jury Summons
THE DREADED JURY SUMMONS – PART 1 OF 4 IN OUR JURY SERIES
If you haven’t already, many of you will likely be summoned for jury duty in Arizona federal, state or municipal courts. When you receive that summons, it means that you have been randomly selected from a list of registered voters (federal court), or from a list that includes both registered voters and names taken from Arizona Department of Transportations records (state and municipal courts).
You are qualified for jury service in Arizona state courts if you are a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old and have had your civil rights restored if you have been convicted of a felony.
In federal court, you are qualified for jury service if you are a U.S. citizen at least 18 years old and are sufficiently proficient in English to satisfactorily fill out the juror qualification form. You are disqualified if you are incapable of service because of mental of physical infirmity, if you have a felony charge pending against you, or if your civil rights have not been restored after a felony conviction.
So what do you do when you receive the summons?
First, don’t blow it off. Jury service is your civic duty. It is a critically important part of our system of justice. Defendants in criminal cases and parties to civil cases generally have a right to trial by jury. The system won’t work unless citizens like you respond to the call for service. Remember that our system of justice is not perfect, but it is the best and most fair that we have been able to come up with based on centuries of experience. Having facts decided by open-minded members of the general public allows us to have faith in that system.
If these civic-minded reasons aren’t sufficient to get you to respond to the summons, then you should also be aware that there are potential consequences for failure to report for jury duty when summoned. In federal court, you may be served with an Order to Show cause, in which case you will have to appear in front of a judge and give an adequate explanation why you did not show up. You may be held in contempt under the federal Jury Selection Act, 18 U.S.C. 1866(g), and then fined $1,000, sentenced to three days in jail, and/or community service. In state court, if you fail to respond to a second summons, the court may have you arrested for direct contempt of court and fine you up to $500.
Both state and federal courts in Arizona have procedures to request a potential postponement of your jury service. You will also be given the opportunity to explain why you should be excused from jury service, such as for financial hardship or child care issues. Remember that it is illegal in Arizona for an employer to discharge or otherwise discriminate against an employee for missing work due to jury service so long as the employee provided reasonable notice of such service. The court will provide you with a certificate as proof that you actually attended jury service.
In a follow-up Badger Blog post, we will discuss what to expect when you show up for jury duty.
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