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View Poll Results: What would you do if you receive a Federal Court jury summons?
Toss it, they can't prove you received it! 2 5.71%
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Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-11-2007, 12:17 PM   #1
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Federal Court Jury Summons

So I got a Federal court jury summons in the mail yesterday. If I accept, I would part of a 120 member jury pool out of which 20 would be selected for a 5 month (!) trial.

There are several valid excuses for declining, including one option if you are a "valuable" member of company that would suffer if you weren't there. There's even an excuse if you are a professional such as a doctor or a lawyer. So, it looks like they are more open to excusing you than the traditional county jury summons. As an engineer in a small company, I was thinking about using the "valuable" employee excuse or the professional excuse.

My concern with using the excuse is that there's a note that says you may be called for another jury in 2 to 4 months and I'm not sure if they would accept the same excuse again. One of my friends regularly tosses these things (well, the county ones) in the trash because he says that they can't prove that you received it! Makes me a little nervous to do that, but I'm also worried that I'll be a sucker if I send in *any* kind of response!

So, the question is what would you do? I have 10 days to respond.

[rant on]

I can see the value in jury service and I think I'm less antagonistic towards jury service than the general population, but I can't understand how any court can expect you to serve 5 months on a jury! It seems like this is definitely the type of thing where we need some sort of professional juror pool.

[rant off]
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-11-2007, 12:24 PM   #2
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

My sister had to serve on the Federal Grand Jury, it was supposed to be once a week for 18 months. It didn't matter that she owned her own business and needed to be there, she had to go or <insert what ever consequence>. They were in the middle of a case when the term of duty was up, the judge held them over for another 6 months so they wouldn't have to go through all the testimony again with a new jury.

After what she went through I don't think I'd just chuck it in the trash.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-11-2007, 12:38 PM   #3
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

All you gotta do is say we just need to hang the Defendant after He/She gets a fair trial . You'll be otta there real quick. The only one I've ever been called for was a drug case. When they found out I was retired Coast Guard I was gone in a heart beat. Something about my former drug enforcement duties or something.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-11-2007, 02:33 PM   #4
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

The possibility is that you would not be in court every day for the 5 months... Since the Enron trials were down the street.... we would see the 'perp' walks at times... there were times that it was hot and heavy, and then other times there was nothing...

Your friend is right... in Harris County I have heard that over half of the people throw their summons away... and they will not do anything about it.. they just ask for more people to show up knowing the percentages..


BTW... I am one of the ones that think the jury system is VERY important... I don't want some judge that is jaded making a decision on me or someone I know based on his experience with all those crooks...
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 10:39 AM   #5
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderALot
One of my friends regularly tosses these things (well, the county ones) in the trash because he says that they can't prove that you received it!
Yeah, boy, that's the kind of American "peer" I'd like my defense lawyer to query... the kind that has to be hauled into the court in custody to do his job!

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderALot
[rant on]
I can see the value in jury service and I think I'm less antagonistic towards jury service than the general population, but I can't understand how any court can expect you to serve 5 months on a jury! It seems like this is definitely the type of thing where we need some sort of professional juror pool.
[rant off]
Acknowledging that it's only a rant, I think jury duty is a civic payback. The question isn't whether there'll be pain-- only how much.

I'll defer to the opinions of Gumby et al, but IMO the good news about jury duty is that you can freely discuss your opinions in front of the lawyers when they're interviewing you. If you come off too far to one side or the other-- or too opinionated to have your mind changed-- or too likely to seize the leadership role-- they'll probably boot you out anyhow. I can see how an engineer juror would be regarded as a lawyer's nightmare.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 11:36 AM   #6
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by WanderALot
So I got a Federal court jury summons in the mail yesterday. If I accept, I would part of a 120 member jury pool out of which 20 would be selected for a 5 month (!) trial.
Are you certain its a trial jury and not a grand jury summons?

I ask because a couple of things seem odd:

Twenty people serving means a lot of alternates. They always have two or three alternates who sit together with the jury so if someone gets sick and can't be in court the alternates fill in. The strange thing is that nobody on the panel knows if they are a juror or an alternate, they only make that decision after the case is completed and the jury is read to start their deliberations. I'm not sure if they even have 20 seats in the jury box. Not that they couldn't provide some alternate seating, but that number seems excessive. If they know it will be a long trial they may make exceptions just to be safe (imagine losing several jurors during the trial and nearing the end only to find there are no longer 12 people who can serve).

I've never heard of a jury summons indicating how long the expected service is. There are always more than one trial going on and nobody knows what court you will be sent to until after you are sitting in the assembly room. I suppose that in light of a really long case they might have a reason for an exception, but it seems like a breach of security for what might be a high profile case. Imagine knowing you were going to be on the jury of Ken Lay (Hey Kenny Boy! I'll sell you my vote for one of those cozy chalets in Vail!).

I'm not sure how long a federal grand jury sits, but 5-6 months seems right. Unlike the state, where the judge picks a citizen he trusts to act as a commissioner to select citizens as grand jurors, I think federal grand jurors are just people whose name got picked by the great computer. I've appeared before plenty of federal grand juries but I can't recall how many people there were. Here they sit in a room that's similar to an ampitheater and the room was full. There were at least twelve people and there may have been more.

Don't get me started on throwing a jury summons away. But 5 months would be a major disruption even for a retired person. If you are eligible to use a valid excuse and this trial would cause you hardship then I say give that a try. 5 month trials have to be as rare as hens teeth, I would think that if you got called again in 2 months that even if you made it on the jury you could expect a trial length of a few days to maybe 2 weeks at the most.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Proud
Your friend is right... in Harris County I have heard that over half of the people throw their summons away... and they will not do anything about it.. they just ask for more people to show up knowing the percentages..
Most big cities figure that they will get a percentage of people who don't show up because the address in their database was old. Total no shows runs from the high teens to low twenty percent, and that's an increase from years past. I think if half the people in a big city trashed their jury summonses that the courts would have made some changes to fix that just because that high of a absentee rate would just destroy the jury system. With the numbers as high as they are currently there are still faced with something of a serious problem. The can either just send out more summonses to get the number of people they need, or if they suspect people are just dodging, they could send the summonses by certified mail. Of course, sending it out via regular mail costs less than a dollar, and going certified probably raises the costs to several dollars. The medium size suburb I live in sends them out certified, and if you don't show up they come and get you because you're now a defendant. If OP signed for it I don't think he can take that way out. In any case, trashing the summons is just wrong.

Modified to ad: DW just read this (she got her recent jury summons for municipal court via certified mail) and commented that one of her girlfriends got one and forgot to go to court. City court is in the evenings here and that same night she had two cops at her door with a warrant. They suggested she bring cash or a credit card with her because if she couldn't pay the fine she would have to sit in jail. The judge kept her and another forgettee waiting until all the other business of the court was over. They got a lecture and a small fine.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 11:41 AM   #7
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

A summons is an order of the court which must be obeyed. It is unlikely, but if you completely ignore it you could be dragged into court to face contempt charges. Better to respond and try to get an exemption.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 11:46 AM   #8
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Last month I had jury duty in District Court. There was a jury panel of 30 people. First the judge questioned the prospective jurors and 13 were dismissed. Then the prosecutor and defense attorney questioned the remaining jurors. Five more were dismissed to yield a jury of 12. Many of the answers that led to dismissal were ones indicating that the juror could not be impartial. For example, the charges involved malicious wounding. Any juror who said they had been a victim of violence was asked if that would prevent them from rendering an unbiased verdict. If they said yes, they were dismissed.

I think you will be pretty safe if you report for jury duty and find a way to answer the questions you will be asked in such a way that you will be viewed as biased. Either the judge or one of the attorneys will dismiss you.

BTW I really enjoyed being on the jury for the trial even though the prosecution had no real evidence and we came to a not guilty verdict in about 20 minutes.

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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 11:59 AM   #9
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

According to my county (YMMV) if they get no response/no show to a summons, they put you at the top of the list for the next run and you get another one. After 5 no response/no shows, they send someone to hand deliver it to you. No response/show to that one and you get another visit and get to go for a car ride and have your room and board paid by the county for a while.

Last time I got called it was an unfortunate situation. My wife had just gone back to work and was still on night shift, which meant for 3 days a week I had baby duty for about 20 hours a day.

At this exact moment I get a summons and it turns out to be a child molestation case where the trial might run for weeks, perhaps months. Pretty much a non-starter given our situation.

The two days of jury selection before they called me were hellish enough. My wife would get home about the time I'd be getting up. She'd have to sit up all day with him while I was at jury duty, trying to snipe cat naps. I'd get back at around 2pm and she'd sleep a few hours until she had to go back to work.

Through observation, I discovered that off the cuff excuses like "I have plane tickets!" or "my job cant be without me!" got you seated as a juror with little additional fanfare. It seemed fairly obvious that a percentage of people didn't want to serve on the jury but were going to beat around the bush in an attempt to get off.

While I would have loved to fulfill my civic duty, that schedule just wasnt going to work in our current situation. When called I firmly stated that I was not going to be able to serve, gave the 20 second version of our child care situation, and added that I have very little impartiality in me for an alleged child molester.

I couldn't have been fired out of the courthouse by cannon any faster.

Sad part came several months later when the local paper revealed that the guy had been found not guilty but the evidence that he had previously raped and murdered another little girl and had just been released a few months prior to the new offense was not provided to the jury because it would be 'prejudicial'. The new crime was identical to the original one in every way. He was released because it came down to his word vs the little girls word and the scumbags lawyer attacked the little girl until she became confused and changed her story a couple of times.

Disappointing how our judicial systems works sometimes.

So I guess the answer for the OP is that it seems to me that you dont have to serve a lengthy and difficult jury situation if you really cant do it without it being a problem. Just be direct, specific and thorough in explaining why you cant do this length of service and be firm about it.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 12:03 PM   #10
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

5 months? sorry, there's just no way I could do it. The summons would get tossed, and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

IMHO, Jury duty is really for government workers and retiree's. People like me need to keep working so we can pay taxes.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 12:27 PM   #11
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

I responded to the federal questionnaire last year and never was contacted again....It was kinda funny because it was shortly after my county duty....The county duty wasnt a big deal...I had to come in once and never selected and only had to call in every day for about a month to see if I had to report....

One of our local judges put someone in jail overnight since they didnt respond...kinda ridiculous since I think the person was poorer....
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 12:51 PM   #12
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex
5 months? sorry, there's just no way I could do it. The summons would get tossed, and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

IMHO, Jury duty is really for government workers and retiree's. People like me need to keep working so we can pay taxes.
One of the many who think they are 'so important' that they should not serve.... sorry to say... NOBODY is that important...
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 12:53 PM   #13
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Interesting about getting the judge to kick you...

One of the first panels I was on was a civil suit between a black guy and a dentist... one on the panel went up to the judge and said he was a Grand Wizard of the KKK (and he was!!)... the judge said, sit back down... that is not enough... well, the defense crossed him off anyhow, but he had to sit through the whole process...
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 02:29 PM   #14
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex
5 months? sorry, there's just no way I could do it. The summons would get tossed, and I wouldn't lose any sleep over it.

IMHO, Jury duty is really for government workers and retiree's. People like me need to keep working so we can pay taxes.
Um, excuse me? I'm a government worker, and I pay taxes too, so what does that have to do with anything? And WHY exactly is your job more important than others?

Just wondering.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 03:06 PM   #15
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by grumpy
I think you will be pretty safe if you report for jury duty and find a way to answer the questions you will be asked in such a way that you will be viewed as biased.
A very smart (and smart ass) former colleague got summoned for a very high-profile
murder trial. It was the 17yo who actually committed the murder (after being talked
into it by the victim's husband, who'd already gotten life wo/parole), and they were
going for death, moraly questionable even if you believe in the death penalty.

Late in the day the judge said "let's cut to the chase, how do you feel about the
death penalty ?" "I think it's apporpriate under certain conditions". "What do you
mean by that ?" "In this case I think it would be immoral". He had the satisfaction
of the judge clearing the courtroom before asking him to explain himself, whereupon
he was promptly excused !

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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 04:21 PM   #16
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnEyles
A very smart (and smart ass) former colleague got summoned for a very high-profile
murder trial. It was the 17yo who actually committed the murder (after being talked
into it by the victim's husband, who'd already gotten life wo/parole), and they were
going for death, moraly questionable even if you believe in the death penalty.

Late in the day the judge said "let's cut to the chase, how do you feel about the
death penalty ?" "I think it's apporpriate under certain conditions". "What do you
mean by that ?" "In this case I think it would be immoral". He had the satisfaction
of the judge clearing the courtroom before asking him to explain himself, whereupon
he was promptly excused !

I am surprised there was anybody in the court room... I was interviewed with only the lawyers and judge present... (with the other court people also).. no spectators allowed...
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 04:28 PM   #17
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnEyles
Late in the day the judge said "let's cut to the chase, how do you feel about the
death penalty ?"
I can't believe a judge with any experience would ask such an open ended question. Usually it's all yes-no stuff "Could you consider the death penalty?"
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 04:48 PM   #18
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

I always thought it was interesting that people with a bias against the death penalty arent allowed to serve on a jury where that sentence is a possibility.

Isnt that sort of loading the deck a little?

The best, easiest and most straightforward "get out of jury duty" line I heard from someone in my last jury pool was the guy who told the DA that he was an avid CSI watcher and would only accept evidence of that caliber and quality before agreeing to find someone guilty, since according to the prison shows he watched, going to jail was basically a death sentence.

She sent him home pronto and then gave further instructions to the pool as to the realities of the quality of evidence gathered and processed in real life.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 04:57 PM   #19
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Proud
One of the many who think they are 'so important' that they should not serve.... sorry to say... NOBODY is that important...
Bullsh*t! I've served everytime I have been called upon for regular jury duty and have never complained. But five months would mean financial hardship for me and just about anyone else who isn't either retired or works for the gov't.
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons
Old 01-12-2007, 05:10 PM   #20
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Re: Federal Court Jury Summons

Quote:
Originally Posted by El Guapo
I always thought it was interesting that people with a bias against the death penalty arent allowed to serve on a jury where that sentence is a possibility.

Isnt that sort of loading the deck a little?
It's not the right place nor time to debate the death penalty as anything other than the fact that it is a punishment allowed under the law. If people who were unable to consider the death penalty during punishment deliberations were allowed to sit on juries then the trial would be biased against the state before it ever began. It's like allowing someone who thinks pedophilia is natural to sit on the jury in a trial against a child rapist. The outcome is a foregone conclusion before you start - why bother having a trial under those circumstances. If the majority of the voters in a state support the death penalty then it makes absolutely no sense to allow one juror in one trial to make the law null. Criminal cases are lawsuits in which the prosecution represents the people of the state. Their side is supposed to get a fair hearing, and the prosecutor uses the body of law enacted by the people through their elected representatives as the guide for what he's supposed to press for. If a case calls for the death penalty, then he should seek it. It doesn't always work that way, but if the citizens of the state want something different - they need to step up to the ballot box and do something about it there.

Plus, it's not fair to all the defendants who aren't lucky enough to get a death penalty opponent on their jury. "Say, Judge. I want one of them Quakers like that other guy got on his jury!"
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