Court declares July as Juror Appreciation Month

In a resolution signed by all seven justices, the Michigan Supreme Court officially designated July as Juror Appreciation Month. The resolution acknowledges and pays tribute to the many Michigan citizens who have graciously served as jurors, and to encourage everyone to answer the summons to jury service.

“As citizens of the United States, we have a constitutional obligation to fulfill jury duty when called upon,” said Chief Justice Stephen J. Markman. “By ensuring everyone’s right to a fair trial by their peers, jurors play a fundamental role in maintaining a healthy system of self-government grounded upon the equal rule of law.”

“The importance of the jury in both the civil and criminal realms cannot be overstated,” added Markman. “People’s liberty and property are typically at stake depending on what the jury finds.”

In the resolution, the court also proclaimed that “those who answer the call of duty to serve on a jury reaffirm a core value of their American citizenship,” and the justices pledged “to continue their efforts to make jury duty more efficient and less burdensome.”

July was first declared Juror Appreciation Month in 2005 “to underscore the importance of jury service in our constitutional republic.”

Some facts about jury service:

• Who gets called?

U.S. citizens at least 18 years old who are residents of the court district to which they are summoned. The jury pool for each court comes from a list of licensed drivers and state ID card holders in the court’s district. Those who have been convicted of felony crimes are not eligible for jury service.

• Are there exemptions?

People over 70 may request an age exemption from jury service. And while you can be called for duty more than once, you cannot serve on a jury more than once in a 12-month period.

• What’s required?

Jurors must be able to communicate in the English language and be physically and mentally able to carry out the functions of a juror.

• What does it pay?

Under Michigan law, jurors receive not less than $30 per day and $15 per half day for the first day of service. For each day after that, jurors receive not less than $45 per day and $22.50 per half day. Jurors also receive mileage for their trips to and from court. If you report for duty but do not get on a jury, you are paid for the day.

• What if I don’t show up?

You can be held in contempt of court, fined, or even jailed.

• What about work?

By law, an employer cannot fire, or discipline or threaten such action, against an employee who is summoned for jury duty or chosen to serve on a jury, even for a long trial. Nor can employers force a worker to go beyond normal hours to make up for time spent on jury service. An employer who takes these actions could be guilty of a misdemeanor or held in contempt of court.

• What’s an acceptable reason to be excused from jury service?

That’s up to the court, but there are a number of grounds for excusing a person from jury service or postponing the service. “Hardship” is one, and that could include lack of transportation, excessive travel, extreme financial burden, undue risk to physical property, and being over 70. “Hardship” also includes situations where your absence from your normal routine would affect another’s care or pose a risk to public health or safety. A request for a medical related exemption requires a letter from a doctor. A full-time student who believes that jury service will conflict with his or her classes must submit a copy of the class schedule.

• If I serve on a jury, can I talk about the case afterwards?

Once the judge discharges you from service, you may discuss the case with others, although you don’t have to discuss it. Attorneys in the case often find it helpful to talk to the jurors afterwards. In a high-profile case, the media may also want to talk to jurors.

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