The right to a trial by jury is the privilege of every person in the United States, whether a citizen or not. This cherished right is guaranteed by both the United States and Michigan Constitutions. When you are summoned to render an important service as a juror, you have the privileges of citizenship and the protection of your liberties and property through our system of government. When you are selected to serve on a jury panel, you are an important member of the judicial system of Ottawa County and Michigan.
Your Role as a Juror
You’ve heard the term “jury of one’s peers”. In our country the job of determining the facts and reaching a just decision rests, not upon “the government” or any other “higher authority”, but with a jury, which is a small cross-section of the people in the community – fellow citizens of the parties to the lawsuit.
Your part as a juror is vital. You and your fellow-jurors will decide all disputed questions of fact. The Judge who presides over the trial will decide the questions of law, but you, the jury, will have to consider all the evidence and, from what you see and hear during the trial, determine what the facts of the case really are.
Then you will apply the law (as explained by the Judge at the end of the trial) to the facts you have determined, and decide the case.
In other words, you, the jury – not the judge, not “the system” – will decide the case. Justice depends on you.
The purpose of a trial is to do justice, by deciding a dispute between parties fairly and impartially. The value to the community of your service as a juror in that effort cannot be overstated. You can go home when your period of duty is over with a sense of an important job well done.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: If I am over the age of 70, do I have to serve?
A: If you are over 70 years of age, you have the option to serve or not serve. You must still complete your questionnaire in it entirety and return in tint he envelope provided. You will answer the question that asks if you are 70 or over with ‘YES”. Where the question asks if you would like to serve, you will answer “YES” if you wish to serve and “NO” if you do not wish to serve. If you answer “NO”, you will be excused upon notification from the court. Do not assume that you have been officially excused until you receive such notification from jury duty service. As long as you have a valid Michigan diver’s license or Michigan identification care, you will be pre-eligible for jury duty service.
Q: If I am a full-time college student, and I exempt from jury duty?
A: No, college students are not exempt from serving. You will need to show your summons to your professors or instructors and advise them of your upcoming obligation. A jury summons is an official court order with which you must comply. You may request to be excused or to have your jury service deferred to another time. You must make this request in writing as outlined above.
Q: Do the courts provide daycare or transportation?
A: No. You will need to pre-arrange daycare for your service date(s) and arrange for your own transportation.
Q: If I am a stay-at-home parent, can I be excused from jury duty?
A: You may request to be excused or to have your jury service deferred to another time. You must make this request in writing as outlined above.
Q: I am not a United States Citizen. Why was I selected?
A: Anyone with a valid Michigan driver’s license or Michigan identification card is pre-eligible for jury duty service. As a non-citizen, you will not be able to serve as a juror. However, in order to be excused based on this basis, you must provide documentation of your alien status. Acceptable documentation would be: permanent resident Card (Green Card), Passport, or a copy of your Visa (HB1, etc.).
Q: Will I be paid for being a juror?
A: Yes. For the first day of service, jurors are paid $12.50 for a half day (prior to noon) and $25.00 for a full day. Mileage is reimbursed per mile, round trip at the current federal reimbursement rate. Subsequent days of service will pay $20 for a half day and $40 for a full day.
Q: Must my employer pay me while I am on jury duty?
A: Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury service. However, employers are prohibited by law from firing, disciplining, or threatening an employee for serving as a juror.
Q: May I bring my laptop, pager and/or cell phone with me?
A: Yes. However, please turn them off during orientation and prior to entering the courtroom. You will not be allowed to use them during deliberation. The Bailiff will secure them for you during this time.
Q: What do I do if I live in another state for the Winter months?
A: If you are a permanent resident only part of the year, you can be rescheduled to a date when you have returned to Michigan. You will need to request, in writing, to have your jury service date deferred. Your request will be given to the court for consideration.
Q: I am legally blind. Can I still serve on a jury?
A: Absolutely. There are many trials where visual testimony is not presented, in which case you are welcome to serve. If you are not comfortable you need to provide a written request to the court to be excused from jury duty.
Q: My job is too demanding (or, I work in a small office/am self-employed) and I don’t have time to serve on a jury. Do I still have to serve?
A: Yes. A summons is an official court order compelling you to appear for service. The court does understand that every juror has personal or professional obligations that may make jury duty a difficult task to manage. However, jury duty is not an optional experience. If you are selected by the random process, you are required to report as scheduled. There are no categories of employment that result in automatic deferral or excusal. You may submit a written request to be excused from jury duty.
Q: What happens if I do not report for jury duty as summoned?
A: You will be contacted regarding your failure to appear. The Judge will determine if a show cause hearing should be scheduled for you to show cause why you should not be held in contempt of court for failing to appear for jury service. If you fail to appear for a show cause hearing, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest and you can be fined and/or sent to jail.
Q: I have recently moved to another county/state. What do I need to do to be excused from service?
A: Please provide us with documentation of your new address, such as a copy of your driver’s license (front and back) showing your address. However, if you do not have your new driver’s license, other forms of documentation are accepted. Please contact the Clerk’s office for examples.
Q: What if personal or religious beliefs prohibit me from passing judgment on others?
A: You are still qualified to serve as a juror. However, when the judge asks if any juror in the courtroom has a particular hardship or concern regarding jury service, you may state your concerns at that time. The judge and attorneys would have the authority to excuse you based on that reason.
Q: I am a smoker. Will I be able to go outside to take a break?
A: No. All Ottawa County facilities are smoke-free environments. You will need to wait until your lunch break to smoke outside and off county property.
The Court prefers that jurors dress in “business casual” attire.
However, jeans are acceptable as long as they are in good condition without holes. Please do not appear for jury service wearing gym clothes or clothing that does not provide adequate coverage (for example: tank tops or shorts).
Should you have a medical condition that requires you to wear comfortable clothing, please feel free to do so.
Additionally, if you need to report to work after being released from jury duty and you are required to wear a uniform at your job, it is perfectly acceptable to appear in uniform.