Jury service is a vital function of democracy and is one of the most important duties of citizenship. It is not voluntary but is a civic duty. It is also a very rewarding experience, which will give you an opportunity to participate directly in the administration of justice. While it may require some adjustment of your normal schedule to serve as a juror, we believe you will enjoy the opportunity to see your courts in action and to learn more about our system of justice. The right to trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of the American legal procedure and one of the few areas in which every citizen may participate in this fundamental principle of our American heritage. Thank you so much for your willingness to sacrifice your time and for your effort to be diligent in fulfilling your civic duty.
Jury Instruction Line: 615.907.3566 (4:30 p.m. - 8:00 a.m.)
Jury Online Summons Questions: https://juryinfo.rutherfordcountytn.gov
Jury Clerk Phone: 615.907.3566 (8:00 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.)
What are the requirements to serve as a juror?
To serve as a juror, one must:
be a United States citizen and a resident of the county in which you are summoned;
be at least 18 years old;
have been a resident of Rutherford County for at least 12 months;
have not served as a juror in the previous twenty-four (24) months;
have not been convicted of perjury, subornation of perjury, a felony, or any infamous offense.
How are jurors selected?
Jury selection begins when a name is randomly selected from a master computer generated list of persons with driver’s licenses. Those randomly selected citizens are sent a summons, which is a court order stating the required time and place to appear.
The jury pool is composed of those people summoned to appear on a particular day. Juries are selected from the jury pool. In criminal cases, the jury is made up of twelve jurors, except in the rare case of the parties agreeing to fewer. In civil cases, the jury can consist of as few as six jurors or as many as twelve. Alternate jurors may also be chosen to avoid unnecessary delays or expense in the event of the incapacity of a juror.
Responding to Summons for Jury Duty
What if I am unable to serve on the day I was called?
In most cases, the court will do what it can to accommodate you and will often permit you to postpone the date. Read your Jury Service Info Sheet to determine the court’s policies for rearranging the date or call the Circuit Court Clerk’s office directly. Do not ignore your summons.
How do I get out of Jury Duty?
Serving on a jury is an awesome responsibility and is one of the only opportunities citizens have to participate directly in our process of governance. And, unlike voting, it is mandatory, not discretionary. We urge all citizens to respond to summons for jury duty and to put forth their best effort to serve when called. We recognize, as do the Courts, that jury duty imposes a heavy burden on many citizens. However, those who fulfill their civic duty will find that they are appreciated by the court system and often report that serving was a positive and educational experience.
The jury system is the foundation of our system of justice. If we as citizens do not assume the mantel of responsibility, we cannot ensure that fair juries will be found to decide the cases in which we may be involved. Remember, you would want a fair, unbiased jury to decide your case. The only way to achieve that is to commit to serve when called for jury duty.
However, courts do understand that there may be substantial and legitimate reasons that inhibit your ability to serve, and they have developed procedures to ease the burdens of service.
Are certain individuals exempt from Jury Service?
In Tennessee, no one is excused or exempt from jury duty except those who:
• Are in active service of the Armed Forces;
• Have served on jury duty within 24 months of their current summons. OR
• Demonstrate to the court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.
If you satisfy one of these conditions and wish to seek an exemption from jury duty you must mail a Juror Qualification Form (which is enclosed with the summons) to the court. This request must be received and approved prior to the date you are scheduled to serve. Do not simply ignore your summons.
What happens if I ignore my summons?
A juror summons is a court order. Any juror who fails to appear when summoned may be fined and/or held in contempt of court.
How often do I have to serve?
Following jury service, a citizen shall be exempt from jury duty for 2 years.
The Trial Process
What kind of trials do jurors hear?
Jurors hear either criminal or civil cases. In criminal cases, a district attorney acting on behalf of the citizens of Tennessee prosecutes a case against an individual or an entity accused of a crime. The district attorney is also referred to as the prosecutor. The person or entity accused of the crime is referred to as the defendant.
In civil cases, an individual, entity or governmental agency brings a suit against another individual, entity or governmental agency. The party initiating the lawsuit is referred to as the plaintiff, and the party defending the suit is the defendant.
How long will I have to serve?
Usually you will have to serve one (1) month for Petit jury or three (3) days for Grand jury.
Will I be sequestered?
Sequestration is a term used to describe jurors staying at a local hotel at the county’s expense during the trial. Sequestration occurs rarely, but may happen.
The Day of Service
What should I expect when I report for jury duty?
The majority of people called for jury duty on any given day will not actually serve. Counties must summon more jurors then will actually be used because it is difficult to predict precisely how many jurors will be needed on a given day. However, counties are working to decrease the number of excess jurors they call in each day, and are instituting procedures to foster virtually up-to-the minute counting of how many jurors are needed. These counties often use telephone or web-based information lines which jurors may access the night before their scheduled service to see if their service is still required. Check with the Circuit Court Clerk’s office.
In any event, most jurors likely will spend some time waiting to be called before a judge and lawyers for voir dire (i.e. questioning of the jury panel). This may be frustrating, but when you are waiting to be called or questioned, please remember that if you were to be involved in a trial, whether civil or criminal, you would probably want the court and the lawyers to take their time picking a good jury, so be patient. This is the time to pull out a book or project, socialize with your fellow citizens, or catch up on some rest.
You will be called in groups or “panels” to be questioned by the judge and/or lawyers involved in a particular case. Listen to the questions and answer as honestly and fully as possible. Your answers will help the lawyers decide whether to select you to serve on their case. Do not be insulted if you are not chosen; jury duty selection is not a science.
If you are selected to serve on a jury, the judge presiding over the trial likely will give you instructions about your responsibilities at the start of the trial. These instructions probably will include prohibitions against discussing the trial or its proceedings until the trial ends and deliberations begin and against conversations with the judge, the lawyers or any parties. Follow the judge’s instructions – they are designed to ensure that the trial proceeds efficiently and without error.
The judge also is likely to provide some guidelines about the role of jurors during the trial. As the judge will surely instruct the jury, you need to pay attention to all of the witness testimony and evidence offered during the trial. This includes evaluating for yourself which witnesses were credible or trustworthy. Following testimony and presentation of evidence, the judge will instruct the jury about the law that governs the case. The judge’s instructions will guide the jury in making its decision.
Can I bring my cell phone into the Courthouse?
Only if it is silenced or turned off.
Can I bring food?
What should I wear?
Jurors must be dressed appropriately while in the courthouse. Although the judge will determine whether jurors attire is appropriate, jurors should not wear shorts, short skirts, sagging pants, see-through or suggestive clothing, visible undergarments (including undershirts and tank tops), flip flops, house shoes, bandanas, headbands, hats/caps, or clothing with inappropriate or offensive advertisements or slogans.
What if I am sick or have an emergency the day I am required to serve?
Call the Circuit Court Clerk’s office directly and inform them of your situation. Do not simply fail to appear as you may be subject to penalties.
Will I be able to take notes?
Jurors are permitted to take notes in civil trials that are expected to last longer than two days. In shorter civil trials, the judge determines whether to allow jurors to take notes. Pennsylvania currently is in the middle of a pilot program during which juries in criminal cases expected to last longer than two days also may take notes during the trial. The pilot program was schedule to expire in 2008, at which time the Supreme Court will determine whether to permanently amend the Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow juror notetaking in some trials.
If you are selected to serve as a juror in a trial during which notetaking by jurors is permitted, the judge will give you special instructions about notetaking. Remember, jurors are not required to take notes. If notetaking is permitted, it is up to each individual juror to make his or her own decision about whether to take notes. If you do choose to take notes, be sure to follow the judge’s instructions about what to do with your notes during breaks in the trial and about the use of your notes following the trial and during deliberations.
Compensation for Service; Getting Off Work; and Miscellaneous Issues
Will I get paid for reporting to jury duty?
Under Tennessee law, jurors receive $11 for every day of attendance.
Does my employer have to pay me while I serve on jury duty??
Tennessee employers are required to compensate employees for time lost to jury duty. In addition, Tennessee employers may not fire or demote employees, nor can they deprive them of seniority or other benefits because they have responded to a jury summons or have served as a juror. Although this statute exempts certain smaller employers, employees of such employers may be excused from jury service upon request.
Does the court provide childcare?
How will jury duty effect my job?
State law requires your employer to pay you while you are on jury duty as long as you have been employed for at least six (6) months and the company has five (5) or more full time employees. It is against the law for employers to discriminate against jurors.
How did I get picked for jury duty?
Jurors are randomly selected by a computer from a list of Rutherford County licensed drivers.
Who is exempt from serving on jury duty?
People who do not live in Rutherford County, non-citizens, those under 18 years old, and people with medical conditions which prevent them from serving. If you have a medical condition, you must provide a letter from your doctor. People who pled guilty or have been convicted of any felony offense, perjury, or subornation of perjury are also exempt. College students may choose to serve during a summer month. Persons may choose to serve another month (within 12 months) with prior permission.
Do I have to go back to work if I am dismissed from jury duty early?
Some companies have their own policies concerning jury duty; if so, follow their policy. Our policy is that if you are released early, you should return to your job.
What about a letter for my employer showing the days I served or answered roll call?
Letters can be provided daily or at the end of your service. Check with the Clerk’s office or the deputy Clerk in court the days you are there.
What if I work a night shift?
According to state law you do not have to report to work the shift preceding your reporting date. We will supply a copy of this state law if you or your employer needs it.
What will happen if I do not respond to my jury summons?
Any juror who fails to appear when summoned may be fined and/or held in contempt of court.
What is the roll of a juror?
Your job as juror is to listen to all the evidence presented at trial and then make a decision based on the facts.
What if my son or daughter receives a jury summons while in college?
You may complete the questionnaire on their behalf and indicate that they are in college. We will place them on a summer month or another month of their choice.
What kind of case will I be on?
You are part of a jury pool for trials in Criminal, Civil, and Chancery Courts.
Am I required to serve if I am over a certain age, such as 70?
Yes, there is no maximum age beyond which a person is excused from jury duty.
Will I have to report every day?
You will be required to call in each evening after 4:30 pm during your term to learn whether you are to report the following day.