Alongside military service, being part of a jury is considered to be one of the most important civil responsibilities of an adult American citizen. The U.S. legal system is founded upon multiple rights including that of the right to a trial by jury. Found in the Bill of Rights and the Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, this right is a primary difference between the American legal systems and those of other countries. A trial by jury compromises of 12 ordinary citizens (sometimes less) who are obliged to show up for jury duty and serve on a jury in civil or criminal.
Serving on a jury is an incredible opportunity to participate in the legal process of governance, and to better understand how things work. Unlike having the choice to vote, jury duty is mandatory rather than discretionary. It’s understandable to have concerns when you’re summoned for jury duty. You may even wonder how you can get out of it. Although jury duty could impose a heavy burden upon your life, it’s recommended to put forth your best effort when served. For when you fulfill this civil duty, you may be appreciated with gratitude from the court system and government as a whole. Moreover, you may walk away from the final day of jury duty with an enlightening sense of legal knowledge and a regard for the rights of the American people.
The Importance of Serving as a Juror
Jury duty goes beyond your responsibility as an American citizen. If you choose to not partake in such a role, you cannot ensure that fair juries will always be used in making decisions on cases; of which you could be involved in. In other words, if you were to be put on the stand, you would want a jury who was fair, unbiased and honest. The only way to allow this system to continue is through a commitment to serve when called. That being said, there are understandable, legitimate reasons which may enable you to pass on your ability to serve on the jury.
Legal Procedures to Ease Potential Burdens of Jury Duty Civil Service
You cannot simply choose to not serve as a juror. If you are summoned for jury duty in Tennessee, you are not excused unless you:
- Are in active service of the Armed Forces
- Have served on jury duty within 24 months of your current summons
- Demonstrate to the court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience
- Do not understand English and/or are under the age of 18
Should you believe you fall into any one of these conditions; therefore, are unable to commit to jury duty, you must complete and mail in a Juror Qualification Form (which is enclosed with the summons) to the court. It’s advisable to request this as soon as possible to avoid any confusion or further issues. A summons is a court order. If you ignore it, you risk being fined or held in contempt of court which may carry harsh penalties.
Just Because Your Are Summoned Does Not Mean You Will Sit on a Jury
In Tennessee, jury duty summons are sent out to more individuals than will be needed. This is because some people will be excused during the jury selection process called voir dire. During this time, prospective jurors will be randomly selected and sent to a courtroom to tell the truth under oath when asked questions by the judge or attorneys. This process aims to safeguard the civil or criminal trial by ensuring each juror is qualified and apt to make sound decisions based upon logic and reasoning and without any pre-formed opinions, biases or prejudices of the case.
Serving for Jury Duty
Jurors are representatives from the community who are meant to be impartial and fair during a trial and the reaching of a verdict. Although you may feel as if you are not ready to be a juror, it is your duty to serve on a jury when summoned. Ultimately, by you and others choosing to not partake, you risk future consequences of a complete modification or reconstruction of the legal system which could affect you and the generations to come. If you would like to know more about jury summoning, or have specific questions, you may contact The Higgins Firm, or watch our talk show discussing the ins and outs of jury duty.