Federal Court Jury Duty Guidelines
Federal courts do share some similarities in their jury duty guidelines. Individuals must meet certain standards to qualify for jury service. Potential federal jurors must:
- Be U.S. citizens
- Be 18 or older
- Live mainly in that judicial district for at least a year
- Be able to sufficiently fill out the juror qualification form in English
- Suffer no disqualifying mental or physical health issues
- Have no current felony charges facing penalties of more than 1 year of prison time
- Have no felony convictions without civil rights restoration
Three groups do automatically qualify for federal jury duty exemptions. They include:
- Active-duty military members
- Fire and police department professionals
- Local, state, and federal “public officers” who actively perform full-time public duties
People who work full-time in these categories must not engage in federal jury duty, even if they don’t object. Also, while there is a minimum age to serve as a federal juror, there is no statutory maximum age limit. Some federal courts do allow senior citizens to request exemption based upon age. Check with your specific court clerk to see whether you qualify.
All federal district courts determine their own specific jury duty policies and procedures. Qualifying exemptions may include:
- Being 70 or older
- Acting as federal jurors within the previous two years
- Working on volunteer fire departments, as ambulance crew members, or as rescue squad personnel
People summoned for federal jury duty may also request exemptions under the Jury Act. This requires filing a written request with the court clerk citing “undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.” This request must explain the reasoning behind the hardship. Keep in mind that not all requests are granted. Each court has full discretion to grant exemptions. Jurors cannot appeal to any government entity, including Congress. If the court rejects your request for exemption, you must appear at trial to serve.
What Are Each State’s Age of Exemption from Jury Duty?
Many Americans view serving on juries as an important part of our criminal justice and legal system. While this is true, jury service can pose a hardship on certain individuals. Age may not disqualify someone as a matter of course, but certain physical or mental limitations could provide a valid excuse.
State courts often recognize that jury duty can be an extreme hardship for many senior citizens. Some states allow older jurors to excuse themselves based upon various minimum ages. I’ve compiled a chart listing each state’s specific ages of exemption for senior citizens wondering whether they can be excused from jury duty.
Remember that states and courts sometimes change their rules. It’s critical for anyone who receives a jury duty summons to check with the specific court to determine whether they qualify. Please do not assume you are automatically excused because you meet an age listed above. This is for informational purposes only. Court clerks can provide the proper procedure for requesting exemptions if they’re not included on the summons or jury questionnaire.
What Other Jury Duty Exemptions Can Senior Citizens Request?
Other jury duty exemptions besides age vary from state to state and sometimes even court to court. It’s important to check each court’s specific guidelines. Common reasons senior citizens may be able to request exemptions include:
- Inability to speak, read, and understand English
- Not being a U.S. citizen
- Not residing in the applicable city or county unless ordered by the court
- Having a felony conviction without a restoration of civil rights
- Being active-duty military, a judge, or ineligible due to certain mental or health conditions
States often allow jurors to request exemptions due to extreme “hardship or inconvenience.” One common example is for breastfeeding parents who do not work outside the home. Students who are old enough to be summoned may request postponements until summer breaks. Those with serious mental or physical limitations may qualify for exemption. Requests for exemption must typically be made in writing ahead of time.
Senior citizens with physical or mental concerns should read their summons carefully. Requests to be excused for health reasons may sometimes be made upon the summons itself or the juror questionnaire. Contacting the court clerk is always an option if you are unsure of the appropriate way to request an exemption. Request an exemption well in advance of your appearance date.
What Responsibilities Do Jurors Have?
American jurors are summoned and sworn in to listen to all admissible evidence and decide the facts being litigated in a court of law. This means determining a defendant’s guilt or innocence in a criminal trial and whether they should be found liable (or not) in civil trials. Their important purpose in our society carries certain responsibilities.
Jurors are selected at random from lists of registered voters and/or licensed drivers residing in the jurisdiction. Initial steps often include filling out a jurors’ questionnaire to evaluate eligibility. Those deemed eligible are randomly summoned to show up at court. This summons does not mean they will automatically be chosen to serve on a jury.
This random selection of jurors helps to ensure diversity in juries without regard to age, gender, national origin, political affiliation, or race. Potential jurors often face voir dire, a process where attorneys and the judge ask a series of questions to examine a juror’s suitability to serve. This process helps exclude anyone who cannot consider the facts of the case in an impartial manner.
Judges often dismiss jurors who are familiar with anyone in the case, who have prior information of the case, or who carry strong prejudices. Attorneys for both sides may dismiss a certain number of jurors without stating a reason.
Jurors must decide the facts of the case without prejudice or preconceived notions. The jury alone determines each trial’s outcome. This is a cornerstone of our country’s judicial system.
Do Jury Duty Scammers Prey Upon Senior Citizens?
Internet and telephone scams are becoming increasingly common. One unfortunate scam preying upon senior citizens involves sending fake summons for jury duty. Authentic summons will never request sensitive information over phone or email. Jury duty summons almost always arrive via the U.S. mail and do not request credit card numbers or bank account information.
Courts will not ask you to provide your Social Security number over the telephone. Jury duty scammers prey upon senior citizens by instilling fear, threatening jail time and/or large fines. Don't give into their fear tactics or attempts to rush you into action, particularly if they pressure you to give financial information over the phone.