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Been called to jury duty?

Published April 28, 2012 1:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Have you been called for jury duty? Are you 18 or older? Are you a citizen of the United States and a resident of Utah? If so, then I would like to request your experience, your judgment and some of your time to serve on a jury.

We all have busy lives and I know that you might feel like you do not have time to be a juror. But serving on a jury is a special privilege. Jurors are the backbone of the American legal system. And a juror's vote is the ultimate act of democracy.

You do not need any special training or preparation to be a juror. The witnesses will describe all the evidence you will need to consider. And the judge will explain all the laws you will need to understand as you make your decision. As a juror, your job is to use your experience and judgment to find the facts, apply the law, and decide the outcome. Sound simple? Yes and no.

Jury service can be thrilling. You might have the opportunity to decide whether a defendant committed a crime. Or you might have the opportunity to decide whether one person harmed another and what award should be made to compensate the injured person. Your vote helps to promote justice, one case at a time.

You will not be alone. Most juries in Utah consist of eight people, but there are 12 jurors in capital homicide trials and four or six jurors for misdemeanor crimes. The master list of potential jurors is as inclusive as we can make it. If you are 18 or older, a citizen, and a resident, your name is probably on that list. The names of the people who might serve are selected randomly. A person can be excused from jury service for undue hardship, public necessity, or because the person is incapable of serving. But no one is exempt.

If your name is randomly selected from the master jury list, the court clerk will send you a qualification form with a few simple questions. You can either answer these questions online or fill out the form and mail it back. Returning the qualification form might be the sum total of your jury experience because not everyone who qualifies is called to serve. And not everyone who is called is selected to try a case.

If you are selected, your service could last for one day or for the duration of a trial, although most trials do not last longer than one day. Even just one day's service means you will not be called again for at least two years. And if you are called to service on a date that does not work with your schedule, the court clerks will try to schedule your service at a time when it is convenient. There are limits, but they will try. So just ask.

Our legal system could not function without your service. We are very grateful to each person who serves, and we have built an environment that supports and encourages jurors. We have spread the responsibility as broadly as possible to minimize the commitment of any one person. We have written jury instructions, which are summaries of the law, in plain and simple language. We try to be efficient so we do not waste your time. And our courthouses are modern and clean.

Have you been called for jury duty? If so, please serve. Someone very much like you has a case in Utah's courts. Your participation helps to ensure its fair and just resolution.

For more information, and to qualify online, please see the court's website at http://www.utcourts.gov/juryroom.

Matthew B. Durrant is chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court. His op-ed was written to coincide with Law Day on Tuesday, May 1.