About Jury Service
Jury duty is one of the only opportunities citizens have to participate directly in our process of governance. And, unlike voting, it is mandatory, not discretionary. The Courts recognize that jury duty imposes a heavy burden on many citizens. Those who fulfill their civic duty will find that they are appreciated by the court system and often report that serving was a positive and educational experience.
STEPS TO A SMOOTH JURY EXPERIENCE
- Fill out the jury duty questionnaire your county sends you.
- Respond to any summons for jury duty you receive within the timelines required.
- Make arrangements with your employer and for any child or elder care you need to cover the day you are scheduled to report.
- If the county offers the opportunity to confirm the need to report by telephone or e-mail the day before you are scheduled for jury duty, do it. You can find a list of telephone numbers and Web sites for county courthouses on the Pennsylvanian's for Modern Court's Juror's Guide.
- Locate directions to the courthouse and nearby, affordable parking in advance.
- Arrive on time and report promptly to the jury room.
- Bring some reading material or a small project (needle point, knitting, cross word puzzles, bill paying, letter writing) that you can comfortably carry.
- Bring some snacks in case you get hungry.
- Remember that many courthouses will not permit you to bring cellular phones or small electronic devices inside and that you may be required to check them with security. You may wish to call the courthouse in advance to check the security policy.
- Follow all instructions given by court personnel and judges.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS TO SERVE AS A JUROR?
To serve as a juror, one must be: a United States citizen and a resident of the county in which you are summoned; at least 18 years old; able to read, write and speak English; and must not have been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Individuals age 70 or older are not required to serve, but they may serve if they wish.
HOW ARE JURORS SELECTED?
Jury selection begins when a name is randomly selected from a master list of prospective jurors in the county, compiled from various sources, including voter and motor vehicle registration lists, personal tax rolls and other sources. Those randomly selected citizens are sent a summons, which is a court order stating the required time and place to appear.
The jury pool is composed of those people summoned to appear on a particular day. Juries are selected from the jury pool. In criminal cases, the jury is made up of twelve jurors, except in the rare case of the parties agreeing to fewer. In civil cases, the jury can consist of as few as six jurors or as many as twelve. Alternate jurors may also be chosen to avoid unnecessary delays or expense in the event of the incapacity of a juror.
RESPONDING TO A SUMMONS FOR JURY DUTY
What if I am unable to serve on the day I was called?
In most cases, the court will do what it can to accommodate you and will often permit you to postpone the date. Read your summons to determine the courts policies for rearranging the date or call the court directly. Do not ignore your summons.
How do I get out of Jury Duty?
Serving on a jury is an awesome responsibility and is one of the only opportunities citizens have to participate directly in our process of governance. And, unlike voting, it is mandatory, not discretionary. PMC urges all citizens to respond to summons for jury duty and to put forth their best effort to serve when called. PMC recognizes, as do the Courts, that jury duty imposes a heavy burden on many citizens. However, those who fulfill their civic duty will find that they are appreciated by the court system and often report that serving was a positive and educational experience.
The jury system is the foundation of our system of justice. If we as citizens do not assume the mantel of responsibility, we cannot ensure that fair juries will be found to decide the cases in which we may be involved. Remember, you would want a fair, unbiased jury to decide your case. The only way to achieve that is to commit to serve when called for jury duty.
However, courts do understand that there may be substantial and legitimate reasons that inhibit your ability to serve, and they have developed procedures to ease the burdens of service.
Are certain individuals exempt from jury service?
In Pennsylvania, no one is excused or exempt from jury duty except those who:
1. Are in active service of the Armed Forces;
2. Have served on jury duty within three years of their current summons. However, if such person served as a juror for fewer than three days, the exemption period is only one year; OR
3. Demonstrate to the court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience. You will be excused permanently or the length of time the court deems necessary.
42 Pa. C.S. § 4503.
If you satisfy one of these conditions and wish to seek an exemption from jury duty you must mail a written request to the court. This request must be received and approved prior to the date you are scheduled to serve. Do not simply ignore your summons.
What happens if I ignore my summons?
A juror summons is a court order. Any juror who fails to appear when summoned may be fined and/or imprisoned for contempt of court. 42 Pa. C.S. § 4584.
How often do I have to serve?
Following jury service, a citizen shall be exempt from jury duty for 3 years provided s/he served at least 3 days. Those who served for fewer than 3 days results in an exemption for one year. 42 Pa. C.S. § 4584.
This information has been adapted from information provided by Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts. Please visit www.pmconline.org for additional information about Jury Duty and the Courts.