SURVEY SAYS: Have You Done Your Jury "Duty?"

May 19, 2011 ( - A couple of weeks ago I got an “invitation” for jury duty.   

This week, I asked readers how they responded to their last summons for jury duty – and if they had ever “stretched” things to avoid serving?

Now, before I get into the results here, let me clarify for the readers who misread the intent of my question – I have always turned up for my various summons to jury duty (or at least called in), and I’ve spent time cooling my heels all day waiting to find out if I would be called to serve or not.  That said, I’m neither looking for an excuse to avoid, nor am I advocating avoiding jury duty.

Several readers weighed in on that:

I think those that stretch the truth or do what they can to avoid jury duty are missing the point. Our trial system relies on this system to provide justice. If you were ever on the other side, wouldn’t you want a jury of your peers to carefully consider your case?

“The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is a rare and wondrous thing.  I have lived in countries where that right is only a dream. 

What will happen to you when you end up on trial and your jury is composed of only the slackers who couldn’t figure out how to get out of it?  If we want our justice system to work, we all have to do our part.  Now, you may get booted because the last person some attorney wants on the jury is an intelligent, educated person – but at least you should be willing to serve!”

I have never lied (let’s call it what it is) to avoid a small responsibility I have as a part of a living with the freedoms we have been afforded.  It is a shame that people think their time is so valuable that they lie to avoid those responsibilities and you should be ashamed for making it sound like everyone does it, so let’s make it sound more acceptable by calling it “stretching things”. 

I’ve served PROUDLY and have always considered it my civic duty to do so.  Where would we be if we did not have access to a fair, open-minded, intelligent group of citizens sitting in the jury box if, heaven forbid, we were ever on trial for something!

And, based on the results of this week’s survey, most of you have done your “duty” as well.  

A full 92% said they had either showed up and served, showed up and got sent home, or – as a number in the “other” category said, “called up and stayed home.”

Among those who had answered the call – or would like to – were these perspectives:

Call in for 5 days and then was told I fullfilled my duty

I've never had one! Ever! My mother just got her first at the age of 68.

Showed up/signed up online and wasn't chosen.

I was, like, number #1500; my number hadn't been reached by week's end, so I was excused...

Didn't have to do anything because I didn't qualify

Never been summoned.  If I was, I would show up.

Called in, not needed after all.

My last summons date was for December 29 but when I called on that date to get my reporting instructions, found that the court cancelled the request to appear -- it would not be in session that day.  That counted as serving.

Sent the paperwork back but the case settled before the trial date!!

Actually got to sit on a jury last time, it renewed my idea that Americans work hard to be fair and just.

You had to call in each evening to see if your number was being called the next day - I never had to show up as my # wasn't called. 

In my 59 years I have NEVER been called for jury duty!  And I've lived in 3 different states!

In Illinois you are assigned a juror number and you call the day before to find out if you need to report.  I've never had the pleasure of serving.

Dialed a number the summons said to call the evening before to see if I would be needed and I was not.

I've never been summoned.

As a lawyer, I didn't expect to get picked and was surprised that i was selected along with an accountant, doctor and a few other professionals. Turned out to be an extremely technical case (like a law school exam question on property rights) that was very interesting. IThe results was just the opposite of what i thought it would be after the opening arguments.

It was Grand Jury duty - if you get called, you serve your two weeks!

Ended up on a 2 week malpractice trial

It's your duty to serve, otherwise our system doesn't work.

Called in every night for 5 days but didn't have to report

In my county, we are separated into groups.  We call a hot-line the night prior to jury day that tells us if our "Group #" does/doesn't have to show up.

I showed up but was not selected for a jury.

Had to call the night before, my number was not among those required. 

Local jury duty is three months so I showed up several times and was sent home each time.

Registered to vote for over 30 years and have never been called.  I am knocking on everything that is wood right now to keep it that way!!!!

I was a reserve juror so had to call in twice per day to see if I needed to report. I never needed to.

Deferred to a later date (is that a "reprieve"? I just wasn't available on specified date)

Served four weeks on a murder trial.  Interesting, scary, but the right thing to do.

Had to show up several days, but got sent home each day.

I've never been selected.

The city used for my mailing address falls under two counties.  I ways get a summons for the county I don't live in.  I fill out the questionnaire and answer "No" to the question "Do you live in Onedia County?" I've never received a summons for the county I do live in, of course I probably just jinxed myself.  I will show up and serve if I have to.

I was one of the "peremptory challenges" 

Now, the vast majority of this week’s respondents (just over 82%) said they had never stretched things to avoid jury duty.  However, 5.2% had, 8.7% admitted that they had “maybe just a little…”, and the remaining 3% said they would have, but they didn’t have to.  One reader noted, “I wouldn't say I stretched things, although I did probe my memory to identify issues”, and another admitted that they “Would have, but after seeing who was considered on the jury panel of "peers" - (stretch of the term ...most having been victim of crime or having been under arrest!!!) , felt the need to serve :)”.  Yet another explained, “My real history is usually enough to get me out!”

But however much you believe it is your civic duty to serve, if we’re honest, there are times when that duty calls – and runs squarely in conflict with other parts of our life that nonetheless must be attended to.  And this week I also asked readers to share situations when they had “stretched” the truth – or told it – to avoid and/or defer serving.  Here’s a sampling:

Well, this was back in the day when it was easier to get out of jury duty.  I was a single parent at the time, and concerned I'd end up being sequestered, so that part of my plea was true.  But my boss at the time wrote a letter stating how indispensable I was to the company, which stretched the truth just a tad - I was only slightly indispensable!

By telling them I have  small business and if I'm not there no income is earned but it didn't matter.  It's not a stretch or a fib, it's the truth.

When I worked in the private sector, my boss routinely wrote excuses to get employees out of jury duty.  The typical line was volume of work and the harm to the business if the person were to be selected. As a public sector employee we are not permitted to "avoid" jury duty. As a result, I lost a key employee for three months to grand jury duty! 

The trial was related to armed robbery.  I indicated that my conscious was not clear about the death penalty.

I'm going to jinx things by mentioning this, but I have never once been called to jury duty. I'm 33 years old, I vote in every major election, I file my taxes on time, but I've never even been called. Is that odd? I'm not sure whether to be relieved or concerned at this point.

I showed up but got dismissed because I had a colonoscopy scheduled that week.  Hot tip:  that's classified as major surgery (at least in CA).

The first time I was sent a jury notice I was expecting my first child.  I didn't want to sit all day in a room waiting to be called to serve so I sent a letter stating I was suffering from extreme morning sickness.  I got a pass.

I told the judge that I was a CPA, it was tax season, and I knew several attorneys who could have cases before him.  The judge asked if I could still could be an unbiased jury member.  I replied in the affirmative and was selected for three juries over the next three days.

I was supposed to go to jury duty the week I was due with my 3rd child so I did ask for a reprieve and took every day of the 6 months they let me put off the jury duty.  I did go then and was selected for a trial that lasted a day and a half.

"I feel that as an employed person that it is my duty to get out of jury duty. When I am retired, I'll be glad to do my civic bit.  To that end. one time I told the judge that I took allergy medicine, which was true, that made me groggy, which wasn't true.  Of course I felt very silly when the judge was in a sewing class that I was taking.  Luckily she didn't remember me.  Whew!


Another time, I told the judge and attorneys that I couldn't serve because I knew that the defendant was guilty.  When the defendant was brought into the court to so that the list of charges could be read, the victim was in court too.  The victim, a young woman, was visibly shaken and in tears.  I knew he did something terrible to her and I knew that I couldn't be open-minded."

I received a summons for jury duty during my ninth month of pregnancy. While all of my friends thought I should postpone, I went on a hot summer day with my condition very obvious.  I was sent home early in the morning without having to say a word.  I was then covered for 4 years. 🙂

I didn't but my friend did when pressed by the judge about serving.  The judge kept asking "can you just follow directions" My friend responded "well isn't that what the Nazis did...?"  She was released.

I do payroll for a work at a small organization and I have no backup.  Long trial would be a impossible.

I'm probably an oddity, but I loved jury duty and wish I would get called every couple of years. Instead I've only been called once and I'm in my early 40s.

I wouldn't necessarily say I "stretched" anything because I didn't lie or make anything up. But I made sure to let them know in the questioning that I had been through the application process for the DEA. I'm assuming it might have been a drug related case because it didn't take long for them to send me home!

Once in the July Pool, just told the truth.  I do not buy into innocence until Proven guilty.  I do not believe the prosecutor would have brought the case unless they felt they had a good case.  I do not believe a defense attorney has to do nothing.  Then again, it may have something to do with whom I work and the auditor in me.  As an auditor it is not my job to prove you correct, it is your job to prove you are right.

I would love to serve on a jury, any jury.  As an attorney, I'm almost guaranteed to be sent home after the voir dire.  I have been called for and shown up for jury duty at least 7 times, and have never been picked.  I know of only one attorney who has actually served on a jury.  I live in a major metropolitan area, and I guess they have plenty of other people from whom to choose.  For me, the idea of serving on a jury is an elusive goal.


The one and only time in my life that I was summoned was in August 2001. The jury was to hear a minor civil suit against WalMart. During jury selection ("voir dire"), one of the questions posed to the jury pool by the plaintiff's attorney was, Does anyone own stock in Walmart? I raised my hand and answered in the affirmative, which was the truth. I did not get selected for the jury, and I think the plaintiff's attorney must have struck me. Too bad---from what I had heard in the summary of the case that was presented to the jury pool, I thought the plaintiff might have had a case. If so, and if in the trial the plaintiff had convinced me of his case, I would not have hesitated to vote his side and against WalMart.

I had been at the court every day for two weeks, and got picked for a jury on the last day.  I told the judge I had to be on business travel the next week, which was actually a stretch in that it could have been delayed.  He let me go.

A neighbor is an assistant DA.  We met at a block party, and although we didn't do much more than exchange pleasantries, I remembered her name.  When I appeared for jury duty, I mentioned we were neighbors.

I told them that I was very busy at work and the only one that could do a particular project but I should be able to serve a few months later.  I received the summons for exactly two months after my original service so I really did not get out of it.

I seem to be a prime candidate to the lawyers, since I served (as foreman) on a criminal case several years back.  Personally, I think the defense is crazy to have me on a jury, especially a rape case, given I have daughters.  That aside, despite the fact they continue to want me every time I'm called, I always get dismissed due to my work travel schedule.  I travel frequently enough so that there is always a trip on a potential trial date.  I bring the eticket itineraries with me, and they tell me to go home.


In the voir dire for a case where the victim was threatened at knife point, I described how I was mugged at knifepoint in college (which was sort of true) 20 years earlier.  The defense attorney wanted me kicked off for cause, but since it was his first trial, he screwed up the procedure and I ended up on the jury!  [We let the guy go.]

The last jury duty summons I got was 2 months after I completed my stint on jury duty.  In my state you can't be called again for 3 years.  I wrote them a nice note and they excused me.  I am surprised I haven't been called up since...this episode was last century...

I told the judge and attorneys that I had a police officer in my family (he may have been my brother's father-in-law) and that I assumed the gentleman that was accused of the crimes was pretty  much guilty, there is so much work put into warrants and arrests that if he was arrested, he must be  guilty!

The last time I was summoned for jury duty was for federal jury duty.  I had previously (2-3 months before) been serving on a state grand jury once a week for 9 weeks, and really wasn't excited about more so soon.  Fortunately, the trial was scheduled for March and April, and I was able to use the "April 1 PPA certification" excuse -- "As an actuary, I must certify...etc., etc.".  Of course, all the plans I was the actuary for were sufficiently well-funded so as not to need valuations completed before April 1, but....  It worked and I've been deferred - so far so good.

"I actually wanted to do jury duty.  I'd never been called in all my years being a registered voter and had never served.  My luck got me assigned to a jury for a two week murder trial.  We were ALMOST sequestered, but the judge let us go home at night but forbid us from watching live TV or reading the paper.  The case made it to Nancy Grace!  It was a very heart wrenching trial, but I am glad I did my duty, and I would do it again. 


Some folks thought I had quit my job because I was completely unavailable for two weeks (and that NEVER happens).  Note that I did have an 'away' message on my voice mail and e-mail, but some folks just don't get it ;-)."

I said I might be a little prejudiced because I didn't want to serve on the jury.

As sunlight is to a vampire, an insurance company employee is to an attorney, particularly ambulance chasers, umm I mean, plaintiff attorneys. I don't have to stretch anything.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “I find it impossible to "stretch" things in a courtroom.  I am in awe of our judicial system.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!