For many people, getting called for jury duty can lead to lost wages, disruption in childcare schedules, and even cost money for parking at the courthouse. Depending on your state, you may have job protection for jury duty.
The length of a juror’s service depends on what type of jury the citizen sits on. For a civil case, the juror may need to only serve for a day or two. For a grand jury, the jurors may serve once a week for up to 18 months!
Whether you’ve been called to serve for one day or 18 days, if you received a summons for jury duty, you too are probably asking:
How can I get out of jury duty?
Answer: There is no ethical and honest way to get out of jury duty.
Some people believe that you should lie to the judge about your availability, the importance of your job, or exaggerate a medical condition. That may sound like a good idea in theory, but consider the circumstances. The court will have you sworn in, to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth,” and you will have to tell the judge and the lawyers your tall tale of woe. Would you feel comfortable lying in those circumstances? Not only that, but the lawyers and the judge can — and will — ask follow up questions. Unless you’ve won an Oscar, you’re unlikely to fool the judge, who assesses witness credibility every single day.
Moreover, everyone tries to get out of jury duty. If they can, they will make their job sound like the most important in the world. With disability accommodation laws in place, a medical condition usually doesn’t bar someone from serving on a jury, either. Most courthouses are ADA compliant and can make accommodations for people who have less obvious disabilities. If this is you, be prepared with a note from your doctor.
What is a valid reason for being dismissed from jury duty?
A citizen on any type of jury will be dismissed for extraordinary medical conditions. Being in the hospital or too disabled to work will get someone excused. If the type of case makes someone particularly anxious or threatens one’s mental health in another way, then that may also result in being dismissed. For example, I know of someone who was excused from a criminal case because he had extreme anxiety about serving on a criminal case, and his doctor prescribed him medication for the anxiety.
Remember that judges require evidence in any court case. So, if you need to tell the judge that you are medically unable to serve on a jury, be prepared with some evidence. A doctor’s note should be sufficient, as long as the medical issue is sufficient. The note should state your diagnosis and why serving on a jury is almost impossible or requires extraordinary measures. Even if you are still required to serve on the jury, your doctor’s note should get you a reasonable accommodation for your disability.
Another way to get out of jury duty is if the trial is scheduled for a time when you will be traveling and you have already purchased nonrefundable plane tickets. Although there are no guarantees that this will get you out of serving, bring a copy of your receipt with you. Many states have systems that allow you to reschedule your jury service one or two times in the event of a scheduling conflict. So, even a vacation may not get you out of jury duty.
If you make it past the initial screening and are questioned by the lawyers in the case, you may be dismissed from the jury for any reason (other than a discriminatory reason) that the lawyer believes creates bias against her client. For example, an emergency room doctor I know was dismissed from a drunk driving case by the defendant’s attorney. On the other hand, one of my former law professors, who was once a prosecutor and a defense attorney, was not struck from the jury pool. So, you never know what information will cause you to get out of jury duty.
I hope I don’t need to emphasize the importance of serving on a jury. I believe we all understand that, in order for our justice system to work, someone has to do it. Although it’s inconvenient, I would like to serve on a jury. I think it would be interesting. But I also have a job where it would be useful to see how other attorneys conduct themselves in court and I have fairly flexible hours.
If you can’t get out of jury duty, then at least try to enjoy the experience of seeing the art of persuasion and the inner workings of our justice system at play. But also bring a book: You may have some unscheduled time on your hands, and you may not have WiFi.