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Jurors Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of cases are heard in federal court?
Federal court jurisdiction is limited to certain kinds of cases listed in the Constitution. For the most part, federal courts only hear cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving violations of the Constitution or federal law, crimes on federal land, and bankruptcy cases. Federal courts also hear cases based on state laws that involve parties from different states.
While federal courts hear fewer cases than the state courts, the cases they do hear tend to be of national importance because of the federal laws they enforce and the federal rights they protect.
What is the difference between a petit jury and a grand jury?
A petit jury is a trial for civil and criminal cases. The petit jury listens to evidence presented by both parties during a trial and returns a verdict.
A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence, but whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. The evidence is normally presented only by an attorney for the government. The grand jury must determine from this evidence whether a person should have formal charges filed by the government. If the grand jury finds probable cause, then it will return a written statement of the charge called an indictment.
How am I selected for jury duty?
Your name is selected randomly from voter registration lists in your county. The Court then mails you a qualification questionnaire form which you complete and return.
After receipt of the Summons from your office, when should I return the enclosed Juror Questionnaire?
Return the completed Questionnaire within five (5) days to the Court.
How do I notify the Court if jury service will result in undue hardship or extreme inconvenience?
If you have already returned your questionnaire, submit your request in writing to the Jury Clerk. Please refer to your information letter for more information.
How will I be notified of the status of my hardship excuse request?
Prior to your appearance date you may call our automated phone system at (888) 299-4959 to find out the status of your excuse request.
How will I be notified of my appearance date?
It is your responsibility to call our automated telephone system at (888) 299-4959 on the weekend indicated on your summons and follow the instructions you receive.
If you are told to report for jury duty, you must then check the night before you are to report for further instructions.
How long will I have to call in?
The date to begin checking your reporting status can be found on your Summons and the information letter that was mailed to you. Once you have made an appearance and/or served as a juror, you are no longer on call.
What if there is a severe weather threat on the day I am to report for jury duty?
Please call the automated jury line at (888) 299-4959 to check your reporting instructions. If the Court delays or cancels reporting due to severe weather, your reporting instructions will be updated accordingly.
I live a long distance away. Do I need to report?
Yes. Jurors who live over 80 miles from the Courthouse may travel the night before and will be eligible to receive a per diem allowance to assist in covering any lodging and meal expenses. It is recommended that jurors who reside 80 or more miles from the courthouse come prepared with clothing and personal items to last through the end of the week in the event they are selected as a trial juror and elect not to commute.
If I have to stay overnight in a hotel, how does that work?
If you live more than 80 miles one way from the courthouse, then you are entitled to stay overnight in a hotel. The hotel would be one of your choosing, but you should let them know you are a federal court juror and ask if they have a government rate. A hotel receipt must be submitted to the jury office in order to be reimbursed. You also need to take into consideration the subsistence rate which is intended to cover both meals and lodging. The court will not reimburse you for any amount you incur over the subsistence amount. When making your reservation, please inquire about the hotel’s parking arrangements.
What should I bring with me when I report for jury duty?
Please bring your Jury Summons with you when you report. You may also want to bring books, magazines or study materials with you. Since the courtrooms tend to be cool, you may also want to bring a sweater or light jacket with you. Please be advised that cell phones, laptops, and other electronics are not allowed in the Courthouse.
How much time will it take until I know if I am selected?
The selection time varies so you should plan on staying until 5:00PM.
If I am selected, what are the hours I would be expected to spend at the Courthouse?
Trials are usually held between the hours of 8:00AM and 5:00PM.
Does my employer have to let me off for jury duty?
Yes. Under federal and state law, employers must allow their employees time off for jury duty. An employee cannot be punished in any way for serving as a juror. Anyone who is a full-time employee serving on federal or state jury duty is entitled to his or her "usual compensation received from such employment." Alabama Code § 12-16-8 (1975).
Furthermore, 28 U.S.C. § 1875 (a) and (b) state that no employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee's service, or the attendance or scheduled attendance in connection with any such service, in any court of the United States. Any employer violating these provisions will be liable for damages, may be enjoined from further violations, and will be subject to civil penalty to include fees and possible community service.
After a trial is over, am I finished or am I still on call?
Once you have served as a juror for a trial, your jury service is finished for the reporting period.
May I be late?
It is important that you report promptly for jury duty. If an emergency arises, please notify the jury office of the circumstances and when you expect to arrive.
Montgomery: (334) 954-3600
Dothan/Opelika: Please call the Montgomery courthouse. Your message will be sent on for you.
What if my employer wants proof that I was serving on jury duty?
There will be a Certificate of Attendance available at the end of your jury service.
What happens if I don't report for jury duty?
An Order to Show Cause may be served on any juror who fails to report for jury duty. The juror may be required to appear before a judge to show adequate cause for their absence from jury duty and may be held in contempt of court under the Jury Selection Act (18 U.S.C. § 1866(g)). Penalties range from a fine of $1,000, three days in jail, community service, or any combination thereof.
Will I serve on civil or criminal trials?
While the U.S. District Court conducts trials in both civil and criminal cases, there is no way to know what type of case a juror might be assigned to until the day they report for service.
What should I wear for jury duty?
Jurors must wear appropriate attire. Shorts, halter or tank tops, and thong sandals are not appropriate. Business casual is encouraged.
As many people struggle with allergies and other breathing conditions, please be considerate when using perfumes and colognes.
Since the courtrooms tend to be cool, you may also want to bring a sweater or light jacket.
As you will be passing through a metal detector, you may wish to leave excess metal and jewelry at home, to speed up your entry into the courthouse.
May I leave the Jury Assembly Room or Courtroom?
If you need to leave the Jury Room, please notify someone in the Jury Office. Once you are in the courtroom, you may only leave when the Judge allows for a break.
May I smoke?
Smoking is prohibited within the confines of the courthouse. Smoking is only permitted outside of the building.
May I bring a friend or members of my family?
It is best to leave family, friends and children at home while you serve on jury duty.
Can I bring a cell phone, laptop, or other electronics into the Courthouse?
Cell phones, laptops, and other electronics (for example, kindles and e-readers) are not allowed in the Courthouse.
Are jurors given breaks?
Breaks are given. There are several restaurants within walking distance of the Courthouse. Jurors are also welcome to bring their own lunch.
See Where to Dine for some suggestions within walking distance of our facility.
Why do we spend so much time sitting around before the actual selection process occurs?
While many jurors may see this time as wasted, it is time being used by the Judge and attorneys on unexpected events that must be dealt with outside the presence of the jury.
How can my family reach me in case of an emergency?
Your cell phone will not be allowed in the courthouse. However, you will be able to check your messages during breaks or lunch. Your family may contact the Clerk's Office at (334) 954-3600 or the Jury Administrator at (334) 954-3950 in case of an extreme emergency, and a jury clerk will deliver the message to you. (Please have the caller specify that you are on jury duty.)
Will I be paid for my jury service?
You will be paid $50/day for each day of jury attendance or travel, and the current per diem for mileage (calculated based on your zip code) for your round-trip travel.
If you are a federal government employee, you are not entitled to the attendance fee but you will be paid for your mileage.
Juror payment checks are mailed approximately two (2) weeks following your service.
Will the Court pay for my parking?
Yes. Please refer to your Jury Instruction letter for more information regarding juror parking.
Do I report my attendance fee on my taxes?
Yes. The IRS considers juror attendance fees to be Other Income and must be reported. At the end of the year, a 1099 MISC form will be mailed to all jurors who earn $600 or more in attendance fees in the calendar year. This applies only to the attendance fees and not for reimbursement for travel expenses.
If I served on jury duty for state/county court, do I have to serve for federal court?
In order to be excused from jury duty in Federal Court, you must have served on an actual jury that rendered a verdict within the last two years.
What kind of personal information would I need to provide over the telephone?
The U. S. District Court will never ask for personal information over the telephone.
Most contact between the court and a prospective juror takes place through the U. S. Mail. Any telephone contact initiated by the court will not include requests for social security numbers, credit card numbers, or any other personal or sensitive information.