How to prepare for jury duty
I just went through the jury duty process and wanted to share my experience and the things I wish I had known before that would have made it a much smoother process. This is all based off of my experience for the court that I went to and things may be different for you in your area.
Getting your summons. When you get your jury duty summons in the mail, look at the date and make sure you are able to attend. If you have a trip to Europe booked or a surgery scheduled around that time you may want to request a postponement. In my state, you can submit a request to postpone jury duty for another time period within the next 6 months, but you do have to show up that day and can’t postpone again. After that, inform your employer of your scheduled jury duty date so they have proper coverage during that time.
The night before. In my area, you are supposed to call the courthouse the night before your scheduled appearance and an automated system will then inform you if you are to come in or not. One time I called in and it was canceled, so I didn’t have to go after all. Get to bed early and lay out your clothes, breakfast, and a lunch you can bring. In the picture up above, everyone is nicely dressed, but in the jury duty I went to people were in normal casual street clothes. My recommendation is to dress nice, but comfortably.
The day of jury duty. When you arrive you will show your jury duty summons (your ticket to get in), and go through metal detectors. Make sure you left your knives, pepper spray, guns, and whatever else at home. Bring a book to read. After I arrived they had us wait for about three hours before they got started. You could dabble on your phone, but in general they don’t like phones on in courts because they are distracting, you could be looking up information on the case, or you could be recording the proceedings. All of these could get you in trouble and the judge can give you a contempt of court charge or the entire case might go into mistrial. Turn your phone off and bring a book or newspaper to read. Also bring a jacket. Even though it was in the 90’s outside, they cranked up the air conditioning inside and everyone was freezing, including myself. In the courtroom I went to I was permitted a closed water bottle, but no food. So leave your food in your car and have that during the lunch break, and only sip on the water, because they do give you bathroom breaks, but if you really have to go, you don’t want to hold up the entire court if they are in the middle of something.
Jury selection. There were about 100 of us selected and eventually that gets whittled down to 12 jurors and 3 alternative backups. They will ask you a series of questions to see if you are going to be a good choice to be on the jury and will be fair and impartial. If the upcoming trial is only going to be a day or two, they probably won’t ask a lot of questions but the trial I was scheduled for was going to go on for three weeks because it was a pretty serious crime. So voice any issues you may have of sitting in on a jury during that time period. Things such as being a member of law enforcement, being a victim of a similar crime, or even being a single mother of five children with no options for child care could get you excused.
Pros and cons of serving on a jury. Most likely if you are reading this you are a citizen of the United States and are subject to receiving a jury summons. The Constitution gives us this great privilege to be judged by our peers and not just a judge. So being able to serve my community in this way was something I was looking forward to. There are some hardships that come with it however. In my state, your employer is supposed to pay you for the first three days of jury duty, but after that the court will give you $50 a day. If I had been selected for that three week trial then that would have put some serious hardship on my family if I only made $50 a day. Have some emergency savings that you can live off of if you have to go through a trial like this. If you are a business owner, set procedures in place to have various shifts covered if one of your employees has to go through this. One poor lady there had previously served on a federal jury for 18 months! I don’t know how if payment was different for her, but could you live on $50/day for 18 months? That’s when tapping into savings and food storage would be helpful.