Sonoma County is at a funny point in its handling of jury service right now in light of the COVID pandemic. Jurors are meeting—not at the courthouse, but at the fairgrounds. Very few trials are being held. But the county is still sending out lots of jury summons. Which begs the question (loudly these days, if you ask me): Does a person actually have to show up for jury service?
A person’s constitutionally-guaranteed right to a jury of one’s peers is one of the most important aspects of our criminal justice system, inspired by the idea that it shouldn’t just be the high ranking mucky-mucks, or government officials, or the “cool kids” who sit in judgement of the citizenry, it’s the citizens themselves. That’s why it is imperative that a person respond as directed to a jury summons, not just because it is a crime (potentially leading to actual jail time,) to ignore it.
Once you’ve received that summons, take a close look at the date for which you’re supposed to respond. If you’re supposed to be somewhere else that day, because of an important medical procedure, or a pre-planned vacation, don’t worry! You get one free postponement, simply by mailing a request for postponement back. But unless you request a postponement, you’re going to need to follow the directions for reporting as indicated on the summons. (In Sonoma County, you can call or check the County’s website the night prior to your service date to see if you need to actually report in person.)
If you’re called in to serve, but have a compelling reason why you should not be asked to be seated on an actual jury, you’ll have a chance to explain to the court why serving would be a hardship. Reasons accepted by the court include:
Yes, having to upset your daily life for jury service can be a real pain, but put yourself in the position of the defendant: would you rather have people from your own community sitting in judgment of you, or a default, nameless, faceless government entity?
Devina strives to make information relevant to the lives of her clients easily accessible.