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One of the few obligations you have as a citizen is jury duty.   An obligation is a direct duty you have with the government, like paying taxes or registering for selective service.

Registering to vote will almost certainly put you on the jury summons list for your municipal, county, state, and federal courts.   Many courts systems have also begun to use public records such as social security, driver licenses, and tax returns to find jurors.

Some people like the idea of serving on a jury.   Unfortunately, you can’t volunteer for jury duty. Selection is done on a random basis similar to the lottery.   There is no way to get preselected.

However, there a few things you can do to prepare for jury duty once you are summoned:

1. Visit the website of the local court or federal court where your jury summons originated.   You may have to search the web or check your summons to find the web address (URL).   Most court websites have a few pages set aside for jury duty information.   Find out:
  • Where you have to go, if it’s not clear on the summons,
  • What items and personal belongings you can and cannot bring (keep in mind you will have to go through a metal detector and you may have your purse, brief cases, and other bags searched),
  • What you can and cannot wear (the dress code), and
  • How much and how you will be paid (including expenses).
2. While at the website, we also suggest reading up on any do’s and don’ts for jurors and any recommendations for juror conduct.

3. Lastly, serving on jury is not only about being impartial, fair, respectful, and reasonable, it’s also about being patient.   Many citizens get frustrated with jury duty because of the amount of waiting that goes on.

Let us tell you right now that you will spend a lot of time waiting—waiting to get into the courtroom—waiting to get interviewed by the judge and attorneys—waiting to get selected—and waiting for the trial to begin if you are selected.   We suggest you bring plenty of reading material (books, newspapers, magazines) and any other paperwork you can do outside the courtroom while you are waiting.   Some people bring laptops, cell phones, games, and CD players.

Two good court-based websites on preparing for jury duty:

Jury Duty: A Handbook for Trial Jurors — published by the Trail Courts of the State of West Virginia but applies to all trial courts nationwide, this handbook concisely summarizes the trial process and the role and duties of the trial juror (the role most citizens fill while on jury duty).

Washington State Courts: Welcome to Jury Duty — an informative website published by the State of Washington Court System on jury duty.   Includes FAQs and Do's and Don'ts.
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