What’s The Deal With Jury Duty?


Fitchburg District Court

photo via bostonlawyers.com

For traditional college students, now is the time where you might be getting those special postcards in the mail notifying you it’s your time to do your civic duty.

The history of jury duty in the United States is incredibly long, and also something you’ll be forced to watch at 9 in the morning at whatever courthouse they have you appear at. Long story short, the right to a trial by a jury of your peers is one enshrined in the Seventh Amendment of the Constitution.

Massachusetts was the first state to adopt the “One Day, One Trial” system in the 1980s, which is now the national model. This means that when you are summoned for jury duty, it’s only for one day or for one trial. If you are selected, you only have to serve as a juror for the duration of one trial. If not, you get sent home and your juror service is regarded as fulfilled for the next three years. The way it used to work was that you would have to appear every day for thirty days and serve on all of the trials. This new system is arguably incredibly more convenient than appearing every day for thirty days.

I was under the impression that you have to dress well for jury duty. This is what I was told by my parents, and also what everyone on Reddit says. I got up pretty early to iron my shirt and do my hair, only to show up and sit next to someone who was wearing a neon pink tie-dye shirt and ripped jeans. I guess this is the new jury duty fashion? Dress however you want, basically. Except if you want to wear a hat. That rule in highschool that teachers enforced overzealously is taken very seriously in a courtroom.

While many will moan and groan about having to get up early, dressing well, driving to a courthouse, and then likely being sent home, participating in jury duty is as important as voting. If I was arrested for some heinous crime and wanted a trial by jury, but then couldn’t because nobody showed up, that would just suck. That’s not at all how it would work, but still. If you’re able to vote and are not, by the way, you should definitely be doing that.

Jury duty is not something to skip out on; by performing juror service, we preserve the right to trial by jury and safeguard our constitutional freedoms. You’re also saving yourself up to $2,000, the maximum fine for not appearing. $2,000 is often regarded as ‘a lot of money’. So you should definitely go.

It was also kind of cool. I had never been in a courtroom before, and seeing how it works is incredibly insightful. Even if you’ll never become a lawyer, judge, or criminal, having an accurate idea of how your country’s judicial system works is arguably pretty important. It’s literally how people end up being sent to prison, which could be anyone, and sometimes for very long periods of time.

Basically, what I am saying is; do your civic duty!