In some States one can ask to be excused after being summoned to serve for Jury Duty. In other States no excuse is accepted. However, you can still get off, but it takes at least one visit for service. Here’s my personal experience with New York Jury Service.
I recently received a summons to serve for Jury service. The courts in New York no longer allow any exceptions, so I couldn’t get dismissed even though I have a business. In addition, only one postponement may be granted, which didn’t serve any useful purpose for me.
When summoned, one has to call every day for a week for instructions. They keep selecting people from the juror pool throughout the week. If they don’t get to you by the end of the week, you’re considered to have provided good service and you can’t get called again for another six years. This may be different in your state.
As it turned out, I was instructed to appear at the court in Tuesday at 9AM. I waited in the waiting room for three hours. Luckily they provided Wi-Fi so I was able to give email support to my clients via my iPad during that time.
By mid-day I was assigned to a case, along with 30 others. An officer led us to a courtroom.
The judge explained the case to us and said the trial may take two weeks. The case involved a drug dealer who allegedly shot two cops.
The judge called us to the stand, one by one, to interview us along with the two lawyers for the plaintive and the defendant. Either of them could refuse to accept us if they didn’t feel we would decide in their favor for their respective clients. In that case we would be dismissed. That’s why they interview 30 people to get 12 jurors.
In my case, neither attorney felt threatened by me. However, the judge completed the interview by asking if I can honestly put my full attention to the case without being biased.
I answered him by saying, “Two weeks away is a hardship. I have my own business and I need to be available to support my customers, otherwise I can lose my business.”
The judge asked what I do. I told him I develop and support phone systems for small businesses and I need to be able to help customers in a timely manner when they have questions.
With that, the judge said “I’ll send you back to the waiting room and you’ll be assigned to another case that won’t take two weeks.”
After more waiting I was told to go to lunch. I couldn’t use my cell phone while I was in the waiting room, but while at lunch I had the opportunity to return some calls to clients.
When I returned they had not found another case for me, so I was dismissed. They marked my record as “served” and therefore I can’t get called for Jury service for another six years.
That turned out better than asking for a postponement. Only one day lost from work.