From: US Courts
Before potential jurors are summoned for service, their names are randomly drawn from voters lists (and sometimes drivers lists) to receive a questionnaire to determine whether they meet the legal qualifications for jury service. Individuals who receive questionnaires are required to complete and return them to the clerk’s office, which then screens the completed questionnaires to determine eligibility for jury service. (In some courts, qualification questionnaires and summonses are mailed together.)
Yes, it is legally required, and there are penalties for noncompliance. Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. Jury service is an important civic function that supports one of the fundamental rights of citizens – the right to have their cases decided by a jury of their peers.
The Jury Act, which is set out at Title 28, U.S. Code, Sections 1861-1878, calls for random selection of citizens’ names from voters lists or from voter lists supplemented by additional sources (such as drivers lists). Because random selection is required, individuals may not volunteer for service. More on Jury Service
The Act states that individuals are legally disqualified from service:
- if they are not a citizen of the United States 18 years old, who has resided for a period of one year within the judicial district;
- if they are unable to read, write, and understand the English language with a degree of proficiency necessary to fill out a qualification form;
- if they are unable to speak the English language;
- if they are incapable by reason of mental or physical infirmity to render jury service; or
- if they have felony charges pending against them punishable by imprisonment for more than one year, or they have been convicted of a felony and their civil rights have not been restored.
In addition, the Jury Act lists three groups that are exempt from federal jury service:
- members of the armed forces on active duty;
- members of professional fire and police departments; and
- “public officers” of federal, state or local governments, who are actively engaged in the performance of public duties.
Persons belonging to these groups may not serve on federal juries, even if they so desire.
Yes, federal jurors are paid $40 a day. (Employees of the federal government are paid their regular salary in lieu of this fee.) In most courts, jurors also are reimbursed for reasonable transportation expenses and parking fees.
Your employer may continue your salary during all or part of your jury service, but federal law does not require an employer to do so. Nonetheless, the Jury Act forbids any employer from firing, intimidating, or coercing any permanent employee because of their federal jury service.