A Message From Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California
When I speak with jurors, they sometimes ask whether I have ever been called for jury service. The answer is yes, many times. I’ve been summoned for service and served as a juror while working as an attorney, as a trial court judge, as an appellate justice, and as Chief Justice of California. Even Chief Justices are called to serve, and we do.
Serving on a jury is more than a civic responsibility—it is an opportunity for us to participate directly in our system of justice and contribute to our communities. Jury service enables each and every one of us to provide access to justice for all. Trial by jury is one of the fundamental ideals of American democracy; serving as jurors reminds us that these ideals exist only as long as individual citizens are willing to uphold them.
Still, no matter how worthwhile, jury service makes demands on our time, and our courts continue to make improvements to jury service to make it as convenient and manageable as possible.
California pays jurors $15 every day starting on the second day of service, except employees of governmental entities who receive full pay and benefits from their employers while on jury service. Because governmental employers already pay these jurors, the courts do not pay them an additional daily fee. All jurors receive at least 34 cents for each mile they travel to court. The mileage payment, only for one-way travel, also starts on the second day. Some courts may pay you what it costs to take mass transit or local transit agencies may provide free bus or rail transportation to court. Ask your local jury office for information about your court’s payment process.
Length of Service
California has one day or one trial jury service. This means that people are not required to come to court for more than one day of jury duty unless they are assigned to a courtroom for jury selection, or serve on a trial, more than once every 12 months. Typically, if you are not chosen for jury selection after one day at the courthouse then your service is done for at least one year. If you are selected to serve on a jury, after the trial is over your service is also completed for at least a year and often longer. In fact, the majority of people who report for jury service serve for just one day. The vast majority of people who actually serve on a jury find it a fascinating and rewarding experience that they would do again.
Failure to Appear
You must report for jury service if you are qualified and you have not been excused or had your service postponed. Any person who fails to respond may be fined up to $1,500, incarcerated, or both. Carefully follow the instructions on the summons and contact the court if you need help.
Although many courts offer parking for jurors, it is often scarce. Free transit service may be available in your area. Check your summons or contact your local jury office for more information.
If there is an emergency at home, you can be contacted at the courthouse. In an emergency, the judge can excuse you at any time during the trial, even during deliberations, and an alternate can take your place. Of course, the emergency must be significant. The judge will make the final decision.
When you enter the courthouse, you may go through a metal detector. Your handbag, briefcase, backpack, and any containers may be x-rayed. Objects like knitting needles, scissors, nail clippers, pocket knives, and weapons are not allowed. If you have forbidden items, you may be asked to leave the courthouse and return without them. Security officers might keep items they think are hazardous. They may or may not be returned to you when you leave the courthouse. Alcoholic beverages are also not allowed.
We suggest you wear comfortable clothing that fits with the importance and dignity of the courtroom. Shorts, tank tops, bare midriffs, or similar dress are not allowed. Business attire is always appropriate. Check your summons or local jury office for more information. You may not use computers, cellular phones, cameras, or tape recorders in the courtroom. They may not be allowed in the courtroom even if they are shut off.
Age & Health
You may be excused if you have a serious health problem. If you are sick or injured, you may postpone your service or request an excuse. If you are disabled, you may request a permanent medical excuse. Follow the directions on the summons for postponement or excuse. A doctor’s note may be required. If you need special accommodations, contact the court right away.
California law says you are qualified to be a juror if you:
- Are a U.S. citizen
- Are at least 18 years old
- Can understand English enough to understand and discuss the case
- Are a resident of the county that sent you the jury summons
- Have not served on a jury in the last 12 months
- Are not currently on a grand jury or on another trial jury
- Are not under a conservatorship
- Have had your civil rights restored if you were convicted of a felony or malfeasance while holding public office
Beginning January 1, 2020, individuals with criminal records that meet certain criteria are eligible to serve as a juror.
In accordance with Senate Bill 310, which changes the eligibility and disqualification criteria listed in Section 203 of the Code of Civil Procedure, having a felony conviction on your criminal record does not disqualify you from jury service. This change is effective January 1, 2020.
However, if you have been convicted of a felony and are currently on parole, postrelease community supervision, felony probation, or mandated supervision for the conviction of a felony, you remain disqualified from jury service. Additionally, individuals who are currently required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code based on a felony conviction. Lastly, if any individual is incarcerated in any prison or jail, they are also disqualified from jury service.
Additionally, these changes do not affect the eligibility and disqualification criteria for service on a criminal or civil grand jury, as specified in Section 893 of the Penal Code.
We encourage individuals who have questions regarding these changes to contact your local jury office. For those individuals who will now be eligible for jury service and wish to serve, please remember that selection is random. The best way to ensure your name is added to the randomized selection process is to update your information with your county’s local Registrar of Voters and with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
No one is exempt because of their job, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic status.
If you are qualified, please follow the directions on your summons and call in or report as instructed. You will receive additional information when you report for service.
Even if you are qualified to be a juror, you might still have what is called an “undue hardship.” An undue hardship is a difficult situation that prevents you from being able to serve.
If you face an undue hardship, you may be able to be excused from jury service or postpone service.
Reasons you may be excused from jury service include:
- You have no means of transportation.
- You would have to travel an excessive distance to the courthouse.
- You have a physical or mental impairment.
- You provide care for a dependent and cannot afford to have someone cover for you.
- Serving would be an extreme financial burden.
If you are eligible for an excuse, please mark the correct category on the summons response form. Return it to the court right away. Even if you ask for an excuse, you may still be required to come to court to speak with the judge.
Sometimes business or personal matters make it impossible to serve on the date shown on your summons. In that case you may ask to postpone your jury service. Follow the directions on your summons to request a postponement. Give the earliest date you will be able to serve.
from California Courts