A couple of weeks ago, I received an official-looking letter from the Jury Commissioner, Sibley County Court Administration. Along with about 199 other citizens of Sibley County, I had been summoned for jury duty!
The process of selecting jurors involves randomly selecting them from a list of names compiled from the voter registration lists and drivers licenses issued in each county of Minnesota. Terms of jury service vary a lot, depending on the size of the county and the number of trials. In some counties, a prospective juror reports each day for one week, and then is excused at that time or at the conclusion of the trial for which he or she is chosen. In others, like Sibley, a juror is on call for, say, four months, but receives mailed notice if he or she is to report for a trial the following week. They are also told to call in to the jury line the night before to be certain the case has not settled. (Such cases often will settle at the last minute.)
Along with the summons was included a questionnaire that I was required to answer to determine whether or not I am qualified to serve as a juror. I am a United States citizen. I am over age 18. I am a resident of Sibley County. I can communicate in English. I do not have a physical or mental disability that would affect my ability to serve on a jury. I have never been convicted of a felony. And I have not served on a jury within the past four years.
I am not 70 years or older. (Folks over 70 have the option to be excused from jury service, if they wish.)
So, I’m down to the last question on whether I am qualified for jury service:
“Are you a judge in the judicial branch?”
Well, yes I am. And that fact disqualifies me from serving as a juror.
I do spend some time every four months considering requests from prospective jurors to excuse or postpone their service. There are really very few such requests. Most people summoned, though they may not be thrilled at the prospect of jury duty, are more than willing to do their civic duty. Some, however, are prohibited from their religious beliefs to serve as jurors. Others have desperate situations at home that make it virtually impossible to serve. Others have projects at work for several months, and ask that they do their jury service after that project is complete. Still others are students attending school far away from Sibley County.
I try to be as considerate and fair as possible, while requiring citizens to do their duty when called.