Everybody hates jury duty.
What is the law regarding jury duty for Illinois state courts?
Two kinds of juries are in this crazy world: grand and petit. A grand jury is only in serious criminal cases, and only decides if evidence put on by the prosecutor creates a reasonable suspicion the accused committed a crime. If so, the accused can be charged with committing the crime.
A petit jury decides the facts at a trial on whether the accused is guilty of the charged crime. In civil law trials, the petit jury decides a dispute between two or more private parties over a claim brought by one party against another.
Each county will have a list of names of available jurors taken from holders of Illinois driver’s licenses, state ID cards and disability ID cards, and applicants for unemployment in the prior 12 months. Names from the list are randomly drawn by the county authorities. The drawn persons will be summoned to come to the county courthouse at the noted time to serve for the allotted jury term.
Terms vary from county to county. Large populated counties might have a jury term every week. Smaller counties may only have a term lasting two weeks or so once every quarter.
The summons will be delivered per the rules of that county but typically is by mailing. It is an order to appear. Failure to appear without good cause can result in arrest and fine. You can be excused from such jury duty if you show an approved hardship. Hardship means more than an inconvenience.
If excused for a hardship, the jury authority will typically defer you to some jury term following the one in question.
If you show your employer a copy of the summons 10 days before duty starts, your employer must give you time off during the time you have to be in court. The employer cannot fire or threaten to fire or otherwise intimidate you because of your jury duty. If the employer does, the employer could owe you for lost wages or other benefits because of the violation.
If fired and then reinstated by order of the court for violation of this law, you shall be treated as if on a leave of absence and are reinstated with all previous seniority and benefits. You get your attorney’s fees too.
When you serve, you can’t be selected again until the county’s entire name list is exhausted. Then the list starts over. You can’t be forced to serve more than one time within a year of your previous service. To avoid 13th Amendment issues, the law gives you a few dollars each day you appear at court, plus mileage.
You might never be called to sit on a jury during your term. If all the cases that jury term are settled, your service is credited, and you don’t appear for anything.
To qualify as a juror, one must be an inhabitant of the county in question, be 18 or older, understand English, have sound judgment, approved integrity and be well-informed.
Other than residency, age and speaking English, the criteria for being a juror just might disqualify most citizens.
The jury is still deliberating that question.
Brett Kepley is a lawyer with Land of Lincoln Legal Aid,Inc. You can send your questions to The Law Q&A, 302 N. First St., Champaign, IL 61820. Questions may be edited for space.