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5 Tips for Understanding and Surviving Jury Duty: Boston Style

So, last week I had jury duty.  I feel like a pretty good citizen for not postponing it (you can’t avoid showing up just because you are a student, but you can postpone it online for up to a year), and I know that serving on a jury is your civic duty, but as far as specifics go, I was pretty lost.  I hope this practical guide to jury duty will help you if you get called to serve in the future!

1. Show up on time

If you don’t show up by the appointed time, you will still have to serve at a later date, and you can be fined.

2. Here’s the basic breakdown:

When you show up, you go through security, and check-in.  You are then assigned a number that dictates when and if you will be called to serve.  This number will determine when you will be called to go into a courtroom to be informed about the case/questioned about whether you are fit to serve.  For instance, my number was in the 160’s, which meant that 160 people were in front of me.  While you are waiting to be called, you will wait in a large room with many chairs.  Bring work to do!  Next you will be introduced to the judge, who will make a few opening remarks.  You will watch a video on the importance of being a juror, and wait for court to begin.  Then you will be called (if it looks like your number will be needed).  If not, you will continue to wait and see if they will need you later in the day.  When you are finished, you will be dismissed, and mailed a copy of your service to prove that you have done your duty for at least the next three years.  Your employer/school is required by law to excuse your absence.

3. Bring the following:

Paperwork, phone, phone charger, snacks, water bottle, coffee, cash, homework, and headphones.  If you are like me, you will wait for several hours, and may never end up being called.  I was lucky I had homework, headphones, and two books for fun!  Also, there will probably be a small food service, but they often don’t take anything larger than a $10 bill; so bring cash!   

4. You may not be used in a trial.

Many times, juries are called in order to put pressure on the defense to come to an agreement and make a deal without going to trial.  Because of this, a lot of times juries are not needed once they are called.  For example, I sat for five hours and was never called, but the people in front of me that were called to the courtroom never served on a jury because all four trials worked out deals behind the scenes.  It’s an important part of our government system, and it is still interesting being downtown with the myriad of fellow jurors!

5. Have a good attitude.

Everyone always seems to complain about having jury duty, but even though I didn’t serve on a trial, it was a pretty interesting experience.  Once you’re there, people will be pretty grumpy and/or hangry, so bring snacks and eat a good breakfast.  Instead of seeing it as a waste of time, try to see it as a cool opportunity to assert your citizenship; or at the very least, a throwback to an extended high school study hall.  It’s a good chance to get off campus, people watch, and get some uninterrupted Netflix time!


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