Jury Duty

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Hi everyone. It’s Danny Karon, your Lovable Lawyer, here with your quick shot of legal wellness. Today I’m in downtown Cleveland, Ohio in front of the United States District Court House, the Federal Court House. That’s because I wanted to talk to you about jury duty.

When people get called for jury duty, the first thing they think is “ugh, jury duty! I don’t want to take time out of my schedule to do this.” I’d encourage you to think about it differently. Next to serving in the military or voting, jury duty is one of the most sanctified rights we have as Americans. We are all guaranteed the right to a civil jury trial. It’s the 7th amendment in the Bill of Rights. When you get called to serve on a jury, try to appreciate how honored we are to have that chance.

Just the other day, my daughter got a questionnaire for jury duty. That’s what happens in cities and towns around the country. You can get called for federal jury or state jury in a county court. We’re going to talk about federal jury duty and the procedures involved in that.

First, you get the questionnaire in the mail. Your name is taken from the registered voter logs or the registered driver’s licenses list in the judicial district, which is made up of a bunch of counties. If you get a questionnaire, you fill it out and send it in. If you’re immediately disqualified, you’re out. What might disqualify you? Well, for example, my daughter doesn’t live in Cleveland anymore, so she will probably be ruled out from the get go. But, if you’re not ruled out, you have to come downtown on the date and time required and go into what’s called a jury pool – a big room of potential jurors.

You might get asked to go upstairs to a courtroom where you are seated in front of lawyers and/or a judge. You are subject to questioning to see if you are fit to sit on the jury. That process is called voir dire, which is French for “speak the truth.” The lawyers want to ask you questions to see if you can fairly, suitably, and impartially decide the case. If you have a conflict, you will get bumped. But, they can also bump you for reasons they don’t explain – they have that right.

There are two types of juries you could be on. The first is a criminal jury, where you are one of 12 jurors and you need to vote unanimously to convict or find guilt against the defendant. You must convict the defendant beyond reasonable doubt. If the scales are tipped 100% in favor of guilt, you can convict.

Civil trials are the types of cases I talk about on my website. These are breach of contract cases, auto cases, etc. These involve at least a jury of six depending on what the judge says. There has to be a unanimous verdict but the standard is lower – a preponderance of the evidence. Rather than having to find liability by a ton, you just have to find it by a smidge. 51% liable is enough to rule against the defendant.

If you get the opportunity, it’s a real privilege to be part of this process. Next time you get a notice, embrace it and appreciate it. Understand it for what it really is and stick with it. That’s today’s shot of legal wellness. To learn more, please visit my website, sign up for my e-newsletter, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

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