I received my second Jury Summons in approximately three years. My first thought was to wonder why my neighbors who all voted and drove vehicles have never been summoned. Then I decided it was a prime opportunity to write this article for the benefit of those individuals who have never been through the process.
In DuPage County, a potential juror is mailed a jury summons by the Office of the Jury Commission. The date of my summons was May 8, 2000. The future jury service date was June 26, 2000.
Contained in the envelope I received were multiple forms. The Juror Response form identified the date, location, time and type of service. This form disclosed the date the summons was issued and my juror number. The juror number is the identification number by which the juror is processed. If the juror's name or mailing address is incorrect, the juror can correct the information and return the form. Also, if the juror wishes to be excused or is requesting a postponement, the form can be returned with the reasons for the request.
The back of the form explains the form, specifically states that postponements will not be accepted by telephone, identifies who is eligible for jury service, and in bold letters states "There are no occupational or student exemptions from jury service." The address and phone number to the Office of the Jury Commission and the three Jury Commissioners are identified. Another form explained the importance of jury service, the penalty for failing to appear, general information about what is not permitted in courtrooms (e.g. no cell phones, beepers, or computers), an explanation of when postponements are permitted, the compensation, and general information regarding parking and public transportation. On the back of the form are two small maps so people can locate the DuPage County Judicial Center.
The remaining form was the Juror Profile form. It instructed you to only respond to the questions and return the form if you have to report. The instructions were to call after 5 PM the night before (the Friday night before if you had a Monday date) and you would be informed whether you should report. My date was June 26th, which was a Monday. At exactly 5PM on the preceding Friday I called the phone number. A recording stated that anyone with numbers from 1 to 210 should report. My number was 180.
For those of you who don't do litigation work, the Juror Profile contains multiple questions which are generally answered "yes" or "no". The following are some of the inquiries and why they exist:
• The county of your residence.
• Whether you are a citizen.
• Your age.
• Whether you have been convicted of a crime.
• Whether you have a pending lawsuit; have been a plaintiff or defendant in a case; or been a victim of a crime.
Generically these questions address the legal qualifications to be a juror. In Illinois, jurors must be:
• Inhabitants of the county.
• Of the age of 18 years or upwards.
• Free from all legal exception, of fair character, of approved integrity, of sound judgment, well informed, and able to understand the English language, whether in spoken or written form or interpreted into sign language.
• Citizens of the United States of America.
(See Jury Act, 705 ILCS 305/2)
If a potential juror carefully reviews the Juror Response form, he or she will have read language, which paraphrases the legal qualifications as the definition of eligibility to serve.
Since the jury list in Illinois consists of a compilation of the list of legal voters, individuals with Illinois driver's licenses, individuals with Illinois Identification cards, and individuals with Illinois Disabled Person Identification cards, underage individuals are weeded out. However, at this time the computer cannot exclude from the list those individuals who live in the Cook County portion of suburbs like Roselle. Also, the computer cannot identify citizens versus non-citizens. It is assumed that the recipient of the jury summons will carefully read the materials and contact the jury commission or send in the Juror response form if he or she believes there is a disqualification.
However, if for some reason a person appears and cannot serve (i.e. is not a citizen or does not inhabit DuPage county), they are weeded out and will not be brought up to a courtroom. In addition, if it is obvious a person does not understand English, that person will not be permitted to serve.
Secondary Materials and Films
When a juror appears for service, a pamphlet is provided, entitled, "A Handbook for Illinois Jurors." It is prepared by the Illinois Judicial Conference.
Contained in the pamphlet are the following major sections:
• The Right to Trial by Jury.
• Kinds of Cases: Civil and Criminal
• How a Jury is chosen
• Jury Conduct during Trial
• The Stages of Trial
• The Judge
• Conduct in the Jury Room
In addition, two films are shown. The first explained the jury system and the history and importance of the system. Quotes from Justice Douglas and Thomas Jefferson were interspersed.
The second film was entitled, "Your Day in Court." The old Reber street courthouse was displayed. It identified the roles of the personnel in a courtroom, described the voir dire process and the trial procedures.
I canvassed several people regarding the films. The criticisms were that they were too long, contained information everyone knew from television, were geared to a grade school audience, and the prints were worn. The opposing opinions were that they were informative, structured to be understandable by everyone, and interesting. Everyone I interviewed preferred the second film to the first one.
To the right of the entrance to the jury room is a counter manned by several individuals. The potential jurors turn in their juror profile forms to these individuals and are provided the pamphlet.
To the left are coat racks. Scattered throughout the room are tables, chairs, couches, six work cubicles, TVs, magazines, a pop machine, two snack machines, the restrooms, and lockers. Coffee and tea are free. The lockers require a quarter, which is returned when the key is returned. The films are shown in a smaller room.
Restrictions and Limitations
The potential jurors have to arrive by 9:00 AM. When you turn in your Juror Profile form, you are given a yellow badge that has printed in large black letters, "JUROR". The backside of the badge has the juror's number. It also has spaces, which can be filled in to identify the Judge, courtroom, jury room, and a certification that the juror served a certain number of days. A juror is required to wear his or her badge at all times.
An announcement was made within the first half hour. Contained in that announcement was an explanation of the one-day/one trial rule. In a nutshell we were told that if a person was not selected to serve on a jury within that day the person could expect to be discharged at approximately 4:30 PM.
We were also told to avoid using the restrooms outside of the jury room and not to be offended if attorneys, litigants, or judges did not talk to us. Smokers were informed where they could smoke. Everyone was asked to remain in the jury room until called and provided with an escort and not to use the computer terminals in the hallways.
The Assembling Process
Approximately thirty minutes after the films were shown, the first group of prospective jurors was assembled. A series of numbers was called out. Everyone gathered by the front counter to be escorted by a bailiff to a courtroom.
We had been informed that it was anticipated that five courtrooms would require jurors. My number was called for the second group.
A bailiff escorted us to a courtroom. Our Juror Profiles were supplied to the judge, the litigants, and the parties' attorneys. In this particular courtroom the judge and the parties' attorneys conducted voir dire.
The State of Illinois does not pay for a juror's lunch. However, there is a special lunch line and a segregated portion of the lunchroom for the jurors.
If the juror is in a courtroom, the judge in that courtroom controls the length of the lunch break. Otherwise, the staff in the jury room determines the term of the break. Jurors are permitted to leave the building for lunch or to smoke.
In the jury room were Jury Feedback forms and a suggestion box. The following are some of the oral comments I received:
• "It would be nice if AC/jacks were provided for laptop users."
• "I received a postcard, not the instructional materials."
• "I have been summoned three times within one year and each time I'm not selected because I have a case pending in DuPage County. Why am I constantly being called in and my time Wasted?"
• "The jury staff is doing a fine job."
• "It would be nice to have lunch paid for by the county."
• "The facility should be more computer friendly."
I was not selected for jury duty. In the mail I received an envelope postmarked July 7, 2000, with a check in the amount of $17.44 for one day of duty. The breakdown of this payment was: $10.00 for the one-day of service plus $7.44 for travel expenses.
My general observation is that the Office of the Jury Commission does an excellent job of educating citizens about the jury selection process and their role in that process even as it tries very hard to accommodate the needs of a diverse group of individuals. Too often as attorneys we forget that it takes the coordinated efforts of many other dedicated people to create the forum for a jury trial. So, this is my opportunity to say thank you to the personnel of the Office of the Jury Commission for a pleasant and informative experience.
Pertinent statutes include: the Jury Act, 705 ILCS 305; the Jury Commission Act, 705 ILCS 310; and the Jury Secrecy Act, 705 ILCS 315.
Ellen J. Rindal is a sole-practitioner in Roselle, currently semi-retired. She received her Law Degree from I.I.T.-Chicago Kent College of Law in 1976 and her Undergraduate Degree from the University of Iowa in 1973.