American citizens only have a handful of mandatory civic duties and serving on a jury is one of them. While most people dread jury duty, it should be considered an honor. The U.S. Constitution provides for the right to both civil and criminal trial before a jury of our peers. It’s a foundation of our democratic society and we all benefit from this Constitutional right. However, in order for the system to function, we all must contribute. Bryan Waldman recently appeared on WLNS 6 Legal Edge to discuss the Michigan jury duty selection process and what jurors can expect once chosen to sit in the jury box.
Jury Duty Selection Process
The federal and Michigan jury duty selection process differ from one another. In Michigan, the Secretary of State assembles a list of those eligible for jury duty. The courts then take this information and send out questionnaires to eligible parties. Citizens must fill out these questionnaires and return them promptly. From these responses, the courts compile a list and summon people to come in randomly for jury duty.
Michigan Jury Duty Eligibility Requirements
A person is eligible to serve as a juror in Michigan if they meet the following requirements:
- 18 years or older
- United States citizen
- Resident of county or district of the court calling for service
- Able to communicate in English
- Physically and mentally capable of performing service
- No felony convictions prior to service
Getting Out of Jury Duty
Our courts don’t take skipping jury duty lightly. When a person ignores their summons to appear for service, they can be held in contempt of court. Penalties for doing so are significant and may include fines and actual jail time. However, certain situations are considered excusable such as previous jury duty within the last year, age (70 years and older), and nursing mothers with a doctor’s note.
In the Courtroom – What Jurors Can Expect
Inside the courtroom, jurors must take an oath and then are randomly selected to sit in the jury box. However, just because they’re in the jury box doesn’t mean they will end up on the jury. In a process called voir dire, the judge and the attorneys can ask questions of jurors to ensure they are impartial to the case. These questions reveal any biases or if the juror knows potential witnesses or parties involved which prevents them from being impartial.
An attorney can move and ask that the judge make a decision to have a juror removed in a for-cause challenge. The judge can also do this on their own initiative. Attorneys are also allotted a certain number of peremptory challenges which is a dismissal of jurors for no reason at all. While for-cause challenges are unlimited, peremptory challenges are limited in number based on the type of case. Additionally, jurors cannot be excluded solely based on race, ethnicity, or gender.