Other Articles Written by Rolando Pasquali
This article, and the others listed above, are originals written by Rolando Pasquali. Many were published in legal journals and in newspapers of general circulation. Each article is based upon general principles of California Law in existence at the time that it was written. The law constantly changes. Therefore the articles, including this one, may contain information which is out of date. Also, even a small difference in facts can change how the law applies to any situation. No information in this article or anywhere on this website constitutes legal advice. These articles do not create an attorney-client relationship between you and this office. If you need legal advice, contact this office or an attorney in your area
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So You Received a Summons For Jury Duty!
by Rolando Pasquali
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It was sometime after dinner when my father-in-law called. "Rolando," he said in a soft tone of voice "I got a jury service notice. What should I say in order to get out of it?" Treading boldly, or foolishly (take your pick) where few son-in-laws have gone before; I replied: "I'm not going to help you get out of it. We need good people like you on our juries."
Who gets called to serve?
Everyone, almost. California law permits using many different lists for seeking out potential jurors including "DMV, registered voters, customer mailing lists, telephone directories and even utility company lists" as long as the jury selection process uses a representative cross section of the population of the area served by the court.
In fact, the list is so broad that it includes doctors, lawyers, and even prominent politicians. In 1990, I tried a case where Art Agnos, then Mayor of San Francisco, was actually seated as a prospective juror.
Every U.S. citizen over 18 is qualified to serve as a juror in the county where they reside unless the person is either: a conservatee; convicted of malfeasance in public office or a convicted felon (without civil rights restored); or lacking in "sufficient knowledge of the English language".
"I Don't understand English"
I have never completed a trial where the this reason didn't come up least once. English wasn’t my first language, and I am particularly disturbed when I see this used as an "excuse" by people who want to be disqualified. Remember, a claim of inability to understand English will usually be explored by the judge in open court. The judge will likely ask how long the person has been in the U.S., what language they speak at home and at work, what language television programs they watch, and even whether they took their last driver's license test in English.
Often, people are hesitant to serve because the jury summons calls on them at a particularly bad time of year. Judges are usually willing to defer jury service to a better time for you as long as your request is reasonable. Students who are willing to serve during the summer, or sales people who don't want to serve during their busy season will often get quick, easy, and painless deferments. Note that we're talking about short term calendar changes, not delays of more than a year.
The courts are required to make special arrangements to accommodate persons who suffer from vision or hearing loss, as well as person's with limited mobility. Therefore, these reasons, standing alone, are not sufficient to excuse anyone from serving. More complicated medical issues, if supported by your physician, will certainly find a sympathetic ear from virtually every judge and can rise to the level of a legally justifiable excuse. My best advise here is to contact your doctor and ask for a note if you believe that medical problems prevent you from serving.
Remember, jury service is far more than a duty. It's a privilege. I look forward to seeing you in court !
- by Rolando Pasquali
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