The events of September 11, 2001 threatened our wonderful, diverse country and our way of life like never before. Many of us were inspired to re-evaluate just what it means to be an American. Now we hold even more precious the rights we enjoy – including the right to a jury trial. It is your right, even if you are not a citizen.
The San Joaquin County Superior Court extends its heartfelt thanks to those who perform their civic obligation, answering the call to jury service. Last year 28,887 residents appeared for jury service in our county. Of those, 2,421 were actually selected to serve as jurors or alternates on 176 jury trials. Most people who serve find the experience personally rewarding.
Here are some commonly asked questions about jury service:
Why should I report for jury service?
First, it is the law. Answering the summons, and then serving if selected, is a legal obligation. It is one of only a very few obligations we all have as U.S. citizens.
Second, if you or a family member or friend had a civil or criminal case in court, you would certainly want every aspect of the constitutional right to jury trial provided. While no one is entitled to have a jury that consists of twelve people exactly like them, everyone has a constitutional right to have a fair cross-section of the community represented in the pool of people available to be selected as jurors. This means that the profile of the people summoned for jury service should look like our diverse community. People from all walks of life, both genders, different races and ethnic backgrounds, various ages, and different parts of the county should be represented in that pool. If you had a court case, you would want people like yourself in the pool. When you answer the summons, you fulfill that constitutional promise to others.
In other words, it’s not fair if you’re not there
Isn’t it a waste of my time if I’m not selected to sit on a jury?
There’s more to “jury service” than sitting on a jury. By showing up, you contribute to the cross-section of people who are available to be selected, thus reinforcing the inherent fairness of the system.
How did my name get selected as a juror?
Jurors’ names are randomly selected by computer from lists of registered voters and persons who have valid California drivers’ licenses or identification cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Why do jurors sometimes get more than one summons within a year?
If you are a registered voter and possess a driver’s license or California ID card from DMV, you could be summoned more than once if the information given Voters’ Registration and DMV does not match. For example, if a juror has a name or address change, and only contacts DMV with the new information, the Voters’ listing will continue to have the old information. The juror will be identified as two different people when loaded into the jury’s computer. If a juror should receive two summons within the same year, he/she is required to serve only once, but must advise the jury room staff when the second summons is received and provide the date they last served on jury duty. It is the juror’s responsibility to see that both DMV and Voters’ Registration are notified when changes occur in their personal identification.
Who may serve as a juror?
You are eligible if:
You are 18 years of age or older
You are a United States citizen
You are a resident of San Joaquin County
You have sufficient knowledge of the English language
You are physically and mentally capable of serving. Accommodations can be made for people with disabilities
You are not a convicted felon
What should I do when I get a summons in the mail?
READ the summons carefully and follow its instructions. The summons contains important information, including the date and time of your jury service. You may be called to serve in the Stockton, Lodi, Tracy or Manteca courts.
Do I get paid for jury duty?
The State will pay you $15.00 per day and 34 cents per mile one way beginning the second day of jury service. This is the amount mandated by the State Legislature.
Some employers continue to pay their employees while they’re away on jury service, but they are not required by law to do that. You should check with your employer’s policy before appearing for jury duty.
How can I be a juror if my employer won’t let me off work?
While your employer is not required to pay you while you’re on jury service, your employer is prohibited by law from taking action against you for taking time off to serve as a juror, as long as you have given your employer reasonable notice that you might be required to serve. If your employer takes some negative action against you, your employer may be subject to criminal prosecution. You may also file a complaint with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement of the Department of Industrial Relations.
What if being on a jury would be a financial hardship for me?
People who have an extreme financial hardship may be excused from jury duty. Do not ignore the summons. You must respond to the summons in order to be excused for hardship. The Jury Commissioner is happy to work with you. You may have to prove this hardship with a letter from your employer or with some other documentation. Last year, the Jury Commissioner excused 11,472 people due to financial hardship, without them ever having to come to court.
May I postpone my jury service to a more convenient time?
You may request to postpone your jury service only once, for a period no longer than 90 days. In special situations, a longer postponement may be granted. You must mail your request for postponement to the Jury Commissioner’s office at least 5 days prior to your jury service date. You will be notified by mail if the postponement is granted and a new summons will be sent to you for the rescheduled date. Students are not exempt from jury service. Please request a postponement to your next school break.
Is there an age limit for being summoned or serving as a juror?
By law, a juror must be at least 18 years old to be eligible to be summoned and serve, but there is no limitation of age after that to preclude a juror from performing their jury service.
Do I need special education to be a juror?
The beauty of our justice system is that the people making the decisions are regular people from the community. You do not have to be highly educated nor have any particular expertise to be a juror.
Will my opinion count?
Your opinion is very important, but you are not the only one making the decision. Eleven other people from the community will hear the case along with you. The opinions of each of the twelve jurors are equally important. The decision is made by the group after collective discussion about the case by all of the jurors.
What if I know someone involved in the trial?
You may be excused if you know the person(s) on trial or people who might testify, and if your acquaintance would make it difficult for you to be fair and impartial. The judge will ask you about that during the selection process.
Who can I call if I have a question?
Contact the Jury Commissioner’s staff at (209) 992-5500.