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Guide to Jury Service
A Duty and a Privilege - Jury Service
Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. The protection of our rights and liberties is largely achieved through the teamwork of judge and jury who, working together in a common effort, put into practice the principles of our great heritage of freedom. The judge determines the law to be applied in the case while the jury decides the facts. Thus, in a very important way, jurors become a part of the court itself.
Any inconvenience and financial sacrifice that might be made to render public service as a juror are greatly appreciated by the judges, the lawyers, and your fellow citizens. It is a strong act of citizenship akin to paying taxes, serving in the military, and voting.
The reward for a juror’s services lies in the awareness that he or she has performed a high duty of citizenship, and in the realization that he or she has aided in the maintenance of law, order, and in the administration of justice among his or her fellow citizens.
Efficient jurors are men and women of sound judgment, absolute honesty, and a complete sense of fairness. The juror aids in the maintenance of law and order and upholds justice among the citizenry. His or her greatest reward is the knowledge that he or she has discharged the duty faithfully, honorably, and well. In addition to determining and adjusting property rights, jurors may also be asked to decide questions involving a crime for which a person may be confined in prison. In a very real sense, therefore, the people must rely upon jurors for the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Any juror should realize a quiet importance and pride from his or her service. He or she should decide the facts and apply the law impartially, treat alike the rich and the poor, men and women, corporations and individuals. He or she should render justice without any regard to race, color, or creed.
Compensation for Jury Duty
Jurors receive $9 a day for the first three days of service. Beginning on the fourth day, the rate increases to $25 per day. Jurors also receive mileage of 17 cents per mile for each day of service, which is automatically calculated from your home address/zip code.
There is no legal requirement that employers must pay you while you are on jury service. Ask your employer what the company policy says, companies differ. Some employers ask you to supply proof that you were at court on jury service. Lancaster County will provide you with a jury card which verifies your service with the court.
Courtroom Accessibility to the Physically Challenged
All courtrooms are accessible to people who use wheelchairs. If you have a hearing, sight, or mobility concern, please advise the Court Administration Office prior to your service.
To request an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act please go to: www.court.lancastercountypa.gov/160/ADA-Accessibility for the request form or call 717-295-3547
Business or casual business attire is appropriate in the courtroom. Jurors may not wear blue jeans with holes or sleeveless tops.
Directions to Parking Garage / Entering the Courthouse
Parking for jury duty is only provided in the Prince Street Garage (111 N. Prince Street, Lancaster, PA 17603) located at the corner of North Prince and West Orange streets. The garage can be accessed from both Prince and Orange street. Jurors should bring their parking tickets with them to their reporting location for verification. Large vans and trucks that will not fit into the parking garage are to be parked in the parking authority lot located directly behind the East King Street Garage in the 100 block of East Mifflin St. Please review the parking locations map.
Jurors parking in the Prince Street Garage should leave the garage through the Orange Street exit and walk east two blocks to the corner of Duke and Orange street. Jurors should enter the main entrance of the courthouse at 50 N Duke St. The doors are not opened until 7:30 a.m. It might be helpful to get directions to the courthouse.
Upon entering the courthouse, jurors should proceed to the elevators. Take an elevator to the third floor, turn right and proceed down the hallway past courtrooms 3, 2, and 1. Go through the double doors to the lobby area on the second floor of the old courthouse. Go through the lobby to another set of double doors to the left. Orientation is held in courtroom A.
Exemption from Jury Duty
Pennsylvania law allows for exemption from jury duty for:
- Persons in active service of the armed forces of the United States or of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
- Persons who have served within three years on any jury except a person who served as a juror for fewer than three days in any one year in which case the exemption period shall be one year.
- Persons demonstrating to the court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience may be excused permanently or for such period as the court determines is necessary, and if excused for a limited period shall, at the end of the period, be assigned to the next jury array.
- Spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents and grandchildren of victims of criminal homicide under 18 Pa.C.S. § 2501 (relating to criminal homicide).
- Persons who have previously served for a term of 18 months on a Statewide investigating grand jury, including any extensions thereof, who opt not to serve.
- Persons 75 years of age or older who request to be excused.
- Judges and magisterial district judges of the Commonwealth and judges of the United States as defined in 28 U.S.C. § 451 (relating to definitions).
- Breastfeeding women who request to be excused.
First Day of Jury Service
Jurors report for jury service from 8a.m - 5p.m. the first day and 8:30 a.m. - 5p.m. thereafter, unless otherwise instructed. Occasionally scheduling changes occur and jurors may not be required to report for jury duty. Jurors are asked to call 717-390-2305 after 6:00 p.m. the day before their reporting date to listen to a recorded message of reporting instructions.
All jurors are required to go through a metal detector and should bring their summons with them for identification. Jurors should not bring newspapers, recording devices, weapons of any type, or chemical aerosol sprays to the courthouse. Cellular phones and laptops may be brought to the jury lounge, but are not allowed in the courtrooms. There are morning, afternoon, and lunch breaks. Vending machines are located on the second floor of the new courthouse and there are several nearby restaurants.
Juror orientation takes place in each courtroom. A court bailiff takes juror names, verifies parking tickets and distributes a second parking ticket required for exit from the Prince Street Garage and hands out a one page Jury Information Questionnaire. After completing the questionnaires, jurors watch a video tape describing jury procedures. Orientation is concluded after a judge and members of the District Court Administration Office speak to the jurors.
Frequency of Jury Service
The law allows persons who have served as a juror a one year exemption. If you are selected and serve on a jury for three days or more, you may be excused for a period of three years from date of service.
Length of Jury Service
Lancaster County has adopted a three day minimum system for criminal and civil court. If you are not selected to serve on a jury during that period of time, you will be excused by the Court Administration Office. If you are selected, you will serve for the duration of the trial.
Persons in the Courtroom
A number of people are in the courtroom who play a part in the proceeding. The judge presides from the elevated bench. Just as you have been chosen to decide the facts, he or she is the person who was elected by the citizens of your county to decide the law. He or she conducts the trial, makes legal decisions and explains the law to you. The bailiffs are court attendants standing near the witness stand who assist the judge. The official court reporter sits beside the witness stand recording the testimony of the witnesses. A deputy prothonotary or deputy clerk of court sits at a desk near the Judge and handles the papers for the court, calls out the names when a jury is empanelled (chosen to try a case) and administers the oath to witnesses.
The lawyers represent the people whose cases you will have to decide. In each case, each of them will make opening and closing speeches to you, examine and cross-examine witnesses and, when necessary, request a decision from the judge on interpretations of the law. The defendant or defendants are the parties being sued or, in a criminal case, the person charged with a crime.
The plaintiff is the party who brings a civil lawsuit. There may be several plaintiffs in the same suit. The plaintiff and his or her lawyer sit at the table nearest the jury. In a criminal case the prosecutor, the party who brings the charge, frequently a police officer, and a district attorney, the lawyer for the prosecution, sit at the table nearer the jury.
The remaining persons in the courtroom may be witnesses waiting to be heard in a case, litigants, or spectators. Under our legal system, the courts are open to the public so that every citizen may see that justice is done.
Infographic:A Look Inside the Courtroom
A jury is occasionally sequestered, that is kept separate from the public for the duration of a trial, when the judge deems the action necessary because of the nature of the trial. If sequestered, the jurors will have the opportunity to communicate with their families through court personnel; and arrangements will be made to have their clothing and personal articles delivered to them. Following your term of service, you will be compensated at the current daily rate for jury service plus a travel allowance. Return to the Top
The Jury Selection Process
The process of selecting jurors begins with a list supplied by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC). AOPC compiles these names from the Department of Human Services, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Revenue, and the Department of State. Names are then selected randomly from this list by the jury computer software of any individual 18 years of age or older, who has not served in the past three years, to be summoned for jury duty.
The Trial Sequence
The following stages of a trial usually occur in jury cases:
- Selection of a jury and juror’s oath
- The opening statements of the lawyers. Sometimes the opening statements are omitted
- The plaintiff or the Commonwealth calls witnesses and produces evidence to prove his or her case
- The defendant may call witnesses and produce evidence to disprove the plaintiff’s case and to prove the defendant’s claims
- Arguments are made by the lawyers on each side
- The judge will instruct the jury in each separate case as to the law of the case. Jurors must follow these instructions of law given to them by the judge in each particular case
- The jury then retires to the jury deliberation room to arrive at a verdict
The Voir Dire Examination
When the parties and their lawyers are in the courtroom, a panel of twenty or more jurors is called. From this group of jurors, 12 will be selected to try the case. Sometimes alternate jurors, in addition to the 12, may be chosen to take the place of jurors who may become ill during the trial. Jurors are questioned about their qualifications to sit as jurors in the case. This questioning process is called the voir dire. This is an examination conducted by the judge or the lawyers and sometimes by both. A deliberately untruthful answer to any fair question could result in serious punishment to the person making it.
The voir dire examination opens with a short statement about the case. The purpose is to inform the jurors of what the case is about and to identify the parties and their lawyers. Questions are then asked to find out whether anyone on the panel has any personal interest in the case or knows of any reason why he or she cannot make an impartial decision. The court also wants to know whether any member of the panel is related or personally acquainted with the parties. Other questions will determine whether any panel member has a prejudice or feeling that might influence him or her. Any juror having knowledge of the case should tell the judge.
If you have a problem hearing or remembering the testimony of witnesses, or if you have trouble seeing the participants on the witness stand from the jury box, you may ask the trial judge to be excused.
Parties on either side may ask that a member of the panel be excused. These requests, or demands, are called challenges. A person may be challenged for cause if the examination shows he or she might be prejudiced. The judge will excuse the juror from that case if he or she is satisfied with the reason for the challenge. There is no limit to the number of challenges for cause which either party may make. The parties also have a right to a certain number of challenges for which no cause is necessary. These are peremptory challenges. The number of such challenges varies according to the charges in a criminal case. The peremptory challenge is a legal right long recognized by law as a means of giving both sides some choice in the make-up of a jury. Jurors should clearly understand that being eliminated from the jury panel by a peremptory challenge is no reflection upon his intelligence, ability or integrity.
Those jurors not selected to serve on the jury may be sent to the jury lounge to await being sent to other courtrooms for other cases.
Types of Court
Generally, there are two courts in Lancaster County in which jurors serve. One is the common pleas court - criminal, in which persons are charged with crimes, and the other is common pleas court - civil, in which parties come to court to have their disputes resolved.