Welcome to Jury Duty
Jury service is a civic duty which every citizen must perform. Every citizen who has either a Michigan driver’s license or State ID card is eligible to serve. There are no longer any categories of employment that result in an automatic deferral from jury service.
Your fellow jurors will be men and women of varying ages, employment, ethnic origins and religious backgrounds.
To make your jury service less inconvenient, the term of service was reduced from 90 days to 15 days. While you serve, if you have any special personal needs, please notify the court officer.
Jury trials are considered the backbone of our justice system, yet many people are unprepared when called for duty. Often, it’s because they don’t know what to expect – or what is expected of them. This three minute video may help to answer some of your questions. Answering the call for jury duty
Q. How was I selected for jury duty?
A. You were selected at random from lists of Michigan Driver Registrations and Michigan State Identification Cards for residents in your county. The Trial Court receives this list from the Secretary of State’s office annually. The Trial Court’s computer system then selects potential jurors from this random list as needed by the various trial divisions of the Court.
Q. How long will I serve on jury duty?
A. The Court’s computer system will generate a list of potential jurors every month. These lists contain 20 names each. You are summoned to serve for a 15 day period during a specific month. You generally are given 2-8 days for service during that period of time. Even though you are actually scheduled to serve a minimum number of days during your term, in the case of an emergency, you could be ordered to serve other days within your month. It is important that you call the after-hour jury phone number the day before the trial date you are scheduled to appear for. See Court Contacts for that number. It is also printed on the letter you received from the clerk.
Q. When and where must I report for jury service?
A. You must report on the date and time indicated on the Summons which you received. You must report to the courtroom indicated in your summons and check in with the clerk.
Q. How do I get to the court? Where will I park my car? Where will I eat lunch?
A. If you do not have a car, you will have to make other arrangements. In Grayling and Kalkaska, you may park in the public parking area at the courthouse. In Gaylord, District Division parking is located in front of the court building (single story wing of the large building at the Alpine Center). Circuit and Family Division parking is located off Court Street in a lot between 1st and 2nd streets, on the west side of the street. Do not park in reserved areas. You will be excused for lunch. You may either return home for lunch or go to a local restaurant. You will have to pay for your lunch. You may bring a lunch, but refrigeration is not provided.
Q. Who should I notify in the event I cannot appear for jury service?
A. In the event that you are unable to serve on jury duty for the dates that you were assigned, you may write a letter requesting an excusal. Please see Court Contacts for contact information for your county.
Q. What happens if the case is settled before the date of jury service?
A. Call the court division office you were summoned to, after 5:00 p.m. the day before the day of jury service. You will hear a recording giving you last-minute instructions as to whether or not you will have to appear.
If you are informed that you must report for jury service, you must appear as scheduled. An unexcused absence will be subject to the penalties for contempt of court. If for any reason you are unable to telephone the court as directed, you must assume your presence is required and you must appear for jury service.
Q. How do I find out if my jury service has been canceled or postponed in a snow emergency?
A. You should call the County Clerk or local sheriff. You should also listen to your local radio stations. It is very rare that jury service is canceled or postponed. Unless you hear specifically that your jury service has been canceled or postponed, you should assume that it will be held as scheduled.
Q. Will I be informed if a trial is going to be a long trial?
A. Occasionally there is an extended trial. In the event a trial is expected by the court to last more than one day, the trial judge will announce this fact to jurors before the jury is selected.
Q. How late in the day does court operate?
A. Generally court runs until 5:00 p.m. but occasionally it may take longer. The judge usually gives the jurors the option of whether to continue until the trial is concluded or come back the next day.
Q. If I have a problem concerning my jury service, will I be given an opportunity to discuss it with the judge?
A. You should make an attempt to resolve any personal problems prior to your first day of jury service by contacting your County Clerk.
On your first day of service, you will be given an opportunity to discuss any problems regarding urgent personal matters, possible postponements, limitations on the length of jury service, compensation, reimbursement, qualifications for jury service, and any other condition of jury service.
Q. What happens if there is an emergency while I am serving on the jury?
A. In an emergency, the trial judge will decide what is to be done.
Q. Suppose there is an emergency at home while I am serving on the jury? How will my family contact me?
A. In an emergency, you may be contacted via the court telephone number listed after the county in which you are serving as a juror.
Q. What do I do If I am not feeling well or have some personal problem while serving on a jury?
A. You should be as comfortable as possible during your jury service. If you require assistance, bring the matter to the attention of a court officer. If the court officer cannot resolve your problem, the officer will notify the judge. If you cannot hear a witness or if you have to go to the rest room during the trial, raise your hand and let the judge or court officer know your problem. It is extremely important that you hear the testimony of each witness. Do not hesitate to raise your hand if you cannot hear or if you have a personal need.
Q. How much am I paid by the court?
A. This will depend on your employer. Many employers, as a public service or under a union contract, will compensate an employee so that the employee will not suffer financial loss because of jury service. Other employers will not pay a wage while you are serving as a juror. Michigan statutes mandate you receive a minimum of $15.00 for a half day of service or $30.00 for a full day, plus mileage to and from the court.
Q. My employer requires proof of my term of jury service in order to pay me. Will I receive any documentation proving that I actually appeared at a courthouse and served as a juror?
A. At the beginning of your jury service, the clerk will ask each juror whether he/she needs a certificate from the court showing proof of jury service. At this time, you should indicate to the clerk that you need a certificate for your employer. You will be provided with a form.
Q. Will I have to wait for long periods in the juror assembly room?
A. You should be prepared for a certain amount of waiting in the assembly room. Occasionally there are matters brought before the court out of the presence of the jurors. You will be taken to the assembly room during these periods. There is no reading material provided for jurors, so you may bring reading material if you wish. You may not bring newspapers or magazines that may contain a news report on a local issue before the court.
Q. What is the likelihood that I will actually be selected on a jury?
A. The overall probability is about twenty percent. However, it varies.
Q. How was I chosen for jury service?
A. You were chosen at random from a list of licensed Michigan drivers and State ID cards. Each year the State compiles a list of all licensed drivers and State identification card holders. This information is entered into the court’s computer system. The computer randomly selects juror numbers and provides this listing to the court. Some people think that if they do not register to vote they will not be selected as a juror. This is wrong. Any person who has a drivers license or State ID card may be selected as a juror, even if not registered to vote.
Q. Are many people excused from serving on a jury?
A. No. Jury service is a civic duty which every citizen must perform. Doctors, nurses, lawyers, clergy, homemakers, legislators, police, fire fighters, public officials, executives, laborers, teachers, students, and judges must serve. Your fellow jurors will be men and women, young and old, rich and poor, from different ethnic origins and religious backgrounds. The law has no class exemptions. Judges may excuse some people based on individual incapacity.
Q. Why does the court need juries to decide cases?
A. In our society, the government has limited powers over the people. Citizens from all walks of life participate every day in the administration of justice through the jury system. When the court impanels a jury, the court is carrying out the instructions of the Constitution. When you serve as a juror, you are exercising one of the rights that the people have reserved for themselves. Many injustices have been suffered by people in other countries when a king or dictator has had absolute power over the people. In this country, a citizen is selected to serve and to represent the people for that purpose.
Q. What is a court?
A. A court is part of the third branch of government, empowered to resolve disputes. Disputes may arise between private parties and between the government and private parties. In a jury trial, the court consists of the judge, jury and lawyers working as a team to resolve a dispute.
Q. What is a criminal case?
A. A criminal case is a dispute between the government and an individual (or corporation). The government is represented by a prosecutor. The accused, called the defendant, is represented by an attorney, referred to as defense counsel.
Q. What is a civil case?
A. A civil case is a dispute between two or more parties in which the first party, called the plaintiff, accuses the second party, called the defendant, of violating some rule of civil law which has caused injury or damage to the plaintiff. The plaintiff seeks money damages from the defendant. Either party may be an individual or a corporation. The plaintiff starts the legal action against the defendant. For example, the purchaser of a new house (plaintiff) may sue the seller (defendant) claiming that the seller violated the sales contract. The plaintiff seeks a money award, called damages, to resolve the issue.
Q. How does the court resolve cases?
A. The court takes two steps in resolving the disputes. First, it determines the truth or facts – what really happened in the dispute. Second, it applies the proper rules of law to the facts in order to resolve the dispute.
Q. What does the jury do in resolving cases?
A. The jury finds the truth. It decides the facts. This is the major function of the jury – to find the truth. The jury does not decide the rules of law to be applied to the facts in the case.
Q. What does the judge do in a trial?
A. The judge performs several functions, including guiding and controlling the conduct of the entire trial, as well as presiding over the presentation of the evidence to the jury by the parties. It is the judge’s responsibility to see that the jury hears and sees only the evidence that is legally admissible. After all the evidence has been presented to the jury, the judge tells the jury the proper rules of law required to resolve the case. This is called the judge’s charge or judge’s instructions to the jury.
Q. What do the lawyers do in a trial?
A. The lawyers represent and advise their clients on all aspects of the trial. The lawyers usually make opening statements in which they tell the jury what evidence they expect to produce. Lawyers may present to the jury the evidence essential to their client’s claims or defenses. They may attempt to demonstrate to the jury weaknesses in the evidence of the opposing party. The lawyers present evidence primarily by asking questions of witnesses. When a witness is produced for his/her client, the lawyer’s questioning is called “direct examination” of the witness. When the witness is produced for the opposing party, the lawyer’s questioning is called “cross examination” of the witness. In their closing arguments, the lawyers may review and sum up the evidence, comment on the reliability or unreliability of various witnesses, urge inferences favorable to their clients, and attempt to persuade the jury of the merits of the claims of their clients. During the trial, the lawyers may present arguments to the judge on points of law and legal procedure. These legal points are often discussed at the judge’s bench, out of the hearing of the jury or during a recess to avoid the accidental disclosure to the jury of inadmissible evidence.
Q. What is evidence?
A. Evidence includes testimony, (the answers to the questions of witnesses) and writings (contracts, letters, etc.) or physical objects called exhibits (such as photographs, weapons, etc.). Not everything heard and seen in the courtroom is evidence. The opening statements and closing arguments of the lawyers are not evidence. The lawyers’ questions are not evidence. Even the statements and instructions of the judge are not evidence. The judge, in the instructions to the jury, will explain exactly what the evidence is in any particular case.
Q. What is meant by a jury’s taking a view?
A. If the judge decides that it is proper and desirable for the jury to view any of the locations described in a trial, arrangements will be made for the jury as a group to make a visit. A juror should never make a private investigation or take a private view. The observations made by a jury on an authorized view are evidence.
Q. What are jury deliberations?
A. After the jury has heard and observed all of the evidence and after the judge has given the instructions of law to the jury, the jury is sent to a private room to make its decisions in the case. The process by which jurors discuss and evaluate the evidence among themselves in a private room is called jury deliberations.
Q. What is meant by the rule: a case must be decided solely on the evidence?
A. This means that you must decide the case only on the evidence presented to you in the courtroom or on an authorized view. You should not consider anything you may have heard or seen outside the courtroom, anything you may have read in the newspapers, or anything you may have seen or heard on television or radio. You may use your own general knowledge and experience of course.
Q. How is the foreperson of the jury selected?
A. The jury selects the foreperson at the beginning of the deliberations. The foreperson is a discussion-leader of the jury during its deliberations. This is similar to being the chairperson of a committee or moderator of a group. The foreperson should encourage a full and free exchange of comments, observations, and opinions from all members of the jury. The foreperson should ensure that only one person speaks at a time, that every person has an opportunity to express views, and that no person monopolizes the requests or questions on behalf of the jury to the judge and to report the jury’s verdict to the judge in the courtroom. The foreperson should express his/her opinions during deliberations, but these opinions are entitled to no more or less weight than those of other jurors. When votes are taken, the foreperson has one vote.
Q. What is a verdict?
A. During its deliberations, the jury decides the facts and applies the judge’s instructions of law to them. At the conclusion of its deliberations, the jury must resolve the case by reaching a verdict. The verdict is the final decision of the jury. It resolves the case. Verdict means to speak the truth. In a criminal case, the verdict is “guilty” or “not guilty”. In a civil case, the verdict is “for the plaintiff’ or “for the defendant”. In civil cases, the jury also decides, as part of its verdict, the amount of money damages to be awarded. In some cases, the judge may direct the jury to answer special questions that relate to issues in the case.
Q. What is the size of the jury?
A. In the Circuit Division, a jury in a criminal case consists of twelve persons. In the District Division, a jury consists of six persons. In some cases, the judge will impanel an extra or alternate juror in case a juror should become ill or be excused because of an emergency. A civil jury consists of six persons.
Q. In order to reach a verdict, what consensus must be reached?
A. In every criminal case, there must be a unanimous agreement, all members of the jury must agree before a verdict can be reached. In a civil case, five jurors of a six person jury must agree to a verdict.
Q. How should I act during jury deliberations?
A. Generally speaking, the jury is free to determine the procedures it will follow during deliberations, as long as the judge’s instructions are followed. Some judges suggest that it is not a good idea to take a vote at the outset. This may result in some jurors digging in their heels at the start of the deliberations; that is, feeling that they must stick to a certain conclusion before they have a chance to hear what other jurors think about the evidence.
You should enter the deliberations with an open mind. You should not hesitate to change your opinion if it is shown to be wrong. You should not give up any opinion which you are convinced is correct. You should make a step-by-step analysis of the evidence you have heard and seen, trying to fit together the pieces of the factual puzzle which are most credible. No juror should dominate the discussion. No juror should remain quiet and leave the speaking to others. Everyone should participate. Each juror should be respectful and tolerant of the opinions of the other jurors.
The jury should work together, analyzing the evidence, deciding what facts have been proven and what facts have not been proven. After you have determined all of the facts, apply the rules of law that the judge gave you. Only then are you ready to reach a verdict.
Q. Being a juror is very difficult. I may not feel qualified to sit as a juror.
A. Remember that the function of a jury is to find the truth. Jurors have to decide what evidence to believe and what evidence not to believe. It is wrong to think that an individual who is highly educated is better equipped to determine which witnesses are telling the truth and which are not telling the truth. Moreover, the jury’s verdict is a group decision, it is not the decision of any single person. You should have confidence in our Constitution which requires citizens, like you, to participate on a jury. If you forget a point, another juror may remember it; you may remember a point that another juror has overlooked. For centuries, our jury system has worked well with citizens serving as jurors.
Q. Suppose there is a lawyer or other professional person on the jury with me. Should I agree with whatever that person says?
A. Not necessarily. The special education of the lawyer or other professional person does not make one better qualified to determine which evidence is true and which evidence is not true. You should not agree automatically. You should agree if your independent analysis of the facts and truth is the same. Another important point is that only the judge’s instructions can tell the jury what are the appropriate rules of the law. The judge gives the legal issues of the case a great deal of study. It is the judge’s responsibility to provide the jury with the correct rules of law in his/her instructions. All members of the jury, including lawyers and professional persons, are bound to apply the rules of law that the judge reads to them.
Q. What are the most important qualifications of a juror?
A. The most important qualifications of a juror are fairness and impartiality. The juror must be led by intelligence, not by emotions; must put aside all bias and prejudice; must decide the facts and apply the law impartially. The juror must treat with equal fairness the rich and the poor, the young and the old, men and women, corporations and individuals, government and citizens, and must render justice without any regard for race, color, creed or religion.
Q. Before I am selected for a particular jury, will I be asked questions?
A. Before a jury is selected, the judge and attorneys will acquaint the jurors with the parties, witnesses, and circumstances in the case. Some or all of the following questions (or similar questions) may be asked: Do you know any of the parties involved in this case? Do you know any of the witnesses? Do you know any of the lawyers? Do you have any prior knowledge of this case through your personal knowledge or by your reading about it in the newspapers or hearing about it on television or radio? Have you formed or expressed an opinion or prejudice for or against either side? Do you have any personal interest in the case? Is there any reason why you would not be impartial if you served as a juror in this case?
These questions are intended to ensure that the jurors will be fair and impartial. If your answer to any of these questions is yes or if there is any reason why you cannot be indifferent in the case, you should raise your hand and bring the matter to the attention of the judge. The judge will then decide whether or not you should be excused from that case. If your answer is private in nature, tell the judge you will answer the questions to the court in chambers. The judge and both attorneys will then go to chambers with you to hear your answer.
Q. What is a challenge for cause?
A. Whenever the questioning discloses some reason why the juror might be disinterested or indifferent in the case, the judge may excuse the juror from the particular case. This is known as a challenge or an excuse for cause.
Q. What is peremptory challenge?
A. In addition to challenges for cause, the parties, through their lawyers, may challenge a limited number of jurors without giving any reasons. The lawyer simply asks that a certain juror be excused, and the judge will excuse the juror. This type of challenge or excuse is called “peremptory”. Parties or lawyers who exercise peremptory challenges have reasons which seem sound to them for doing so. If you or a fellow juror are challenged peremptorily, you should not be offended or embarrassed. Remember, the peremptory challenge is simply a part of our justice system which gives the parties, through their lawyers, limited control over which jurors are impaneled in the case.
Q. May I take notes during the trial?
A. Rarely are you allowed to take notes, however, in some cases, the judge will permit jurors to take notes during the trial. You will have to follow the instructions of the judge. Even if you are permitted to take notes, you must be mindful that you are seeking the truth. Notes are just a memory aid. You should not permit note taking to interfere with your concentration on the evidence or your ability to observe the demeanor of the witnesses. During deliberations, you must realize that just because you have noted a fact does not necessarily mean that the fact is true.
Q. How should I act as a juror outside the courtroom? May I discuss an ongoing case with anyone?
A. While you are serving on a jury, you are a part of the court. Indeed, jurors are “judges of the facts”. It is important that you act as a judge. Not only must you be fair and impartial in the jury pool, you must appear to be fair and impartial at all times and in all places while you are on the jury. You should not talk to any lawyer, party, witness, or newsperson concerning an ongoing case. No matter how innocent such a conversation might be, it may appear improper to others, especially those whose rights and property are at stake in the trial.
If any individual attempts to discuss an ongoing case with you, refuse to discuss the case and tell a court officer or clerk about the incident. You may see or hear lawyers, parties, witnesses, or news persons in the hallways, elevators, or on the street. Do not discuss the case. IF someone starts to discuss the case in your presence (even if the conversation is not directed to you), immediately interrupt and advise that you are a juror and the case must not be discussed in your presence. If the individual persists, you must inform a court officer or clerk of the incident.
You should not discuss an ongoing case with your family, friends, or neighbors. Your family and friends will respect your serious approach to being a juror. You should not discuss an ongoing case even with a fellow juror except during deliberations. At that time, all of the evidence will have been presented and your opinions as well as those of your fellow jurors will be shared with all members of the jury. In summary, you should refuse to discuss an ongoing case with anyone, except during deliberations.
Q. When the case is completed, will I be subject to questioning about my work as a juror?
A. Without a court order or prior authority from the presiding judge, the attorneys, litigants and their agents have no authority to question you about your work as a juror. Occasionally a court will be persuaded by the attorneys that the interests of justice may require the interrogation of jurors. Such interrogation will take place at the direction of and under the supervision of the judge. In that way, the integrity of the judicial system is preserved and jurors are not subjected to harassment.
You should know that there is no rule which requires you to discuss your jury service on a particular case with anyone after the verdict. Unless otherwise ordered or authorized by the judge, you would be well advised not to reveal how any juror voted at any state of deliberations, or any of the discussions or other sensitive matters that occurred during your secret deliberations in trying to reach a verdict.
If any person should attempt to harass you, embarrass you, seek information which would harass or embarrass any juror, or seek to learn what occurred in the privacy of your deliberations, you should report this to the court immediately. It is very important that the integrity of our jury system be maintained.
Q. Why do Judges allow cases to be settled after they have begun? Doesn’t this cause Jurors’ time to be wasted?
A. There is one major difference between a judgment of the court and a settlement. The judgment is involuntarily imposed on the parties, whereas the settlement is an agreement or compromise voluntarily reached by the parties. Therefore, judges generally encourage settlements. Also, settlements save the time of judges, jurors, court personnel, lawyers, parties, and witnesses resulting in considerable savings to the State, the county and all concerned parties.
It is wrong to assume that jurors’ time has been wasted when a trial ends in a settlement or a guilty plea. Even parties who thought they would never settle do settle when faced with an imminent or ongoing jury trial. The specter of being examined and cross examined before the judge and jury may not be comfortable for some people. The presence of the judge and jury, by itself, motivates many court settlements.
Q. If the case settles, do I still get paid?
A. Yes. You are paid for the time you served.
Q. Will I learn anything as a result of being a juror?
A. As a juror, you will have to make difficult judgments involving all of the human passions-love, hate, greed, anger, etc. You and your fellow court jurors are also human. Certain jurors may respond differently to one or more set of circumstances in the case. There may be good faith differences of opinion among members of your jury during deliberations. Through fate, you and your fellow jurors have been brought together in a search for justice. Justice means truth and fairness. You have no reason to believe that any other jury in any other place or time would do a better job than you will do. The experiences of centuries teach that our system of juries renders fair, impartial, and true verdicts. In addition to the performance of an important civic duty, it is sincerely hoped that you will learn a good deal about courts and the judicial system. As has been the case for many jurors before you – the verdict is yours.