Frequently Asked Questions
- How was I chosen for jury duty?
- First, your name was selected at random from voter registration and driver's license and "identicard" records. Then, your answers to the juror questionnaire were evaluated to make sure you were eligible for jury service (see the FAQ: Who is eligible for jury duty?). You were chosen because you are eligible and able to serve. You are now part of the "jury pool"-a group of citizens from which trial juries are chosen.
- Who is eligible for jury duty?
- To be eligible for jury service, you must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the county in which you are to serve as a juror, and you must be able to communicate in English. If you have ever been convicted of a felony, you must have had your civil rights restored.
- Do I have to respond to the jury summons?
- RCW 2.36.170 states, "A person summoned for jury service who intentionally fails to appear as directed shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." Please respond to your summons. The justice system in Washington State cannot function without citizens willing to serve on jury duty. As one juror said, "if everyone tried to dodge jury duty, then what ...?"
- How do I reschedule jury duty?
- Look at your jury summons form. There will be a telephone number to call, or an address to which you can write, so that you may request that your service be rescheduled, if necessary, to a more convenient time.
- Who can be excused from serving?
- Those eligible may be excused from jury service if they have illnesses that would interfere with their ability to do a good job, would suffer unusual hardship if required to serve, or are unable to serve for other legitimate reasons.
- What if I have a disability?
Judges and employees of Washington courts are committed to making jury service accessible to everyone. Though some courthouses are in older buildings and certain features may not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines, the court will make every effort to ensure equal access to all jurors. Remember: If you have a hearing, vision, mobility or other disability, please contact a member of the court staff to request reasonable accommodations.
- What if I am caring for a dependent child or adult?
- We would appreciate it if you would reschedule your jury service to another date when you can make necessary care arrangements rather than asking to be excused. On your jury summons form, you will find a number to call or an address to which you can write to make arrangements to reschedule.
- What about my job?
- Washington law says employers, "shall provide an employee with sufficient leave of absence from employment when that employee is summoned" for jury duty. It also says employers, "shall not deprive an employee of employment or threaten, coerce, or harass an employee or deny an employee promotional opportunities" for serving as a juror. It does not say your employer has to pay you while you serve.
- How much do jurors get paid?
- RCW 2.36.150 specifies that jurors may receive up to twenty-five dollars but in no case less than ten dollars for each day's attendance. Most Washington State counties pay $10 per day. Jurors are also eligible for mileage reimbursement.
- How long does jury duty last?
- How many days and hours you work as a juror depends on the jury selection system in your county. The judge may vary daily working hours to accommodate witnesses who have special travel or schedule problems.
You may be struck by how much waiting you have to do. For example, you may have to wait before you are placed on a jury. During trial, you may have to wait in the jury room while the judge and the lawyers settle questions of law.
Judges and other courtroom personnel will do everything they can to minimize the waiting both before and during trial. Your understanding is appreciated.
- What should I wear?
- Dress comfortably. Suits, ties and other, more formal wear are not necessary. But don't get too informal-beach wear, shorts, halter or tank tops are not appropriate in court. Hats may not be allowed unless worn for religious purposes.
- What can I bring with me to jury duty?
- The ideal item to bring with you is a book or a magazine, although sometimes the court will restrict newspapers or magazines containing information that may relate to an upcoming trial. Many courts will allow you to bring a laptop computer, but may not allow a pager or cell phone. Because security is taken very seriously, you may find that everyday items like penknives, knitting needles, scissors, or metal nail files cannot be brought into the court facility. Check with your local court to confirm what you may bring with you.
- Might I be called but not sit on a jury?
- Yes. Sometimes parties in a case settle their differences only moments before the trial is scheduled to begin. In such instances, you will be excused with the thanks of the court.
- What happens if I'm late?
- As the trial cannot proceed until all jurors are present, it is important that you are on time. If you are unavoidably delayed, please call the court immediately.
- What if I have an emergency?
- Because your absence could delay a trial, it is important that you report each day you are required to. If a real emergency occurs-a sudden illness, accident, or death in the family-tell the court staff immediately so that the trial can be scheduled around you.
- Can I go home during the trial?
- Usually. But in extremely rare cases, you may be "sequestered" during the trial or during jury deliberations. This is done to assure that jurors don't hear or see something about the case that wasn't mentioned in court.
- Will I be searched when I come to the courthouse?
- Most court facilities have security measures in place. Please do not be offended if you are searched-remember that this is to ensure your safety.
- How long does a trial usually take?
- In superior courts most trials last 3 or 4 days although, of course, there are exceptions. In district and municipal courts most trials last 1 or 2 days.
- What types of cases will I hear?
- Jury cases are either criminal or civil.
Civil cases are disputes between private citizens, corporations, governments, government agencies, or other organizations. Usually, the party that brings the suit is asking for money damages for some alleged wrong that has been done. For example, a homeowner may sue a contractor for failure to fix a leaky roof. People who have been injured may sue the person or company they feel is responsible for the injury.
The party that brings the suit is called the plaintiff; the one being sued is called the defendant. There may be a number of plaintiffs or defendants in the same case.
A criminal case is brought by the state, or a city or county, against one or more persons accused of committing a crime. In these cases, the state, city, or county is the plaintiff; the accused person is the defendant. The defendant is informed of the charge or charges called a complaint or information.
- What happens during a trial?
- Events in a trial usually happen in a particular order, though the order may be changed by the judge. Here's the usual order of events:
|Step 1: ||Selection of the jury|
|Step 2:||Opening statements|
|Step 3:||Presentation of evidence|
|Step 4:||Jury instructions|
|Step 5:||Closing arguments|
|Step 6:||Jury deliberations|
|Step 7:||Announcement of the verdict|
- What happens during jury selection?
- In the courtroom, your judge will tell you about the case, then introduce the lawyers and others who are involved in it. You will also take an oath, in which you will promise to answer all questions truthfully.
After you're sworn in, the judge and the lawyers will question you and other members of the panel to find out if you have any knowledge about the case, any personal interest in it, or any feelings that might make it hard for you to be impartial. This questioning process is called voir dire, which means "to speak the truth."
Though some of the questions may seem personal, you should answer them completely and honestly.
If you are uncomfortable answering them, tell the judge and he/she may ask them privately.
Remember: Questions are not asked to embarrass you. They are intended to make sure members of the jury have no opinions or past experiences which might prevent them from making an impartial decision.
- What is the role of the juror?
- Your job as a juror is to listen to all the evidence presented at trial, then "decide the facts"-decide what really happened. The judge's job is to "decide the law"-make decisions on legal issues that come up during the trial. All must do their job well if our system of trial by jury is to work.
You do not need special knowledge or ability to do your job. It is enough that you keep an open mind, use common sense, concentrate on the evidence presented, and be fair and honest in your deliberations.
Remember: Don't be influenced by sympathy or prejudice. It is vital that you be impartial with regard to all testimony and ideas presented at the trial.
- What are alternate jurors?
- Additional jurors are chosen, known as alternates, in the event that any members of the jury are unable to complete the trial for some reason. Alternate jurors participate in the trial proceedings but do not take part in deliberations unless they have been called to replace members of the jury.
- Can I take notes during the trial?
- Yes, you may take notes in all trials if you wish. The judge will explain the procedure.
- Can I ask the witnesses questions during trial?
- In civil trials, you may propose questions for witness. In criminal trials, you may only propose questions for witness if the judge gives you permission. The judge will explain the procedure.