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Yes. The summons to jury service is an official court summons. If you do not respond, you could be held in contempt of court.
Jurors serve one term of court. Depending on where you live, your term may be up to 4 months. Your summons will indicate the length and exact dates of the term you will serve.
In May of each year the Supreme Court of Virginia, Office of Management Information Systems, sends out Jury Questionnaires to 5,000 perspective jurors in the City of Salem. This list is generated from Voter Registration and DMV Records of Citizens who reside in the City of Salem. These questionnaires are returned to the Circuit Court Clerk for the City of Salem.
On July 1 of each year, three Jury Commissioners who are appointed by the presiding Judge of the Circuit Court review the returned questionnaires. The presiding Judge decides the number of potential jurors to choose from for the year, this number is 1,200 at the present time. The Jury Commissioners must return the list of potential jurors to the Clerk of the Circuit Court by December 15th.
The list of potential jurors is then sent to the Management Information Systems Office for the City of Salem. This Office then places the names on a computer diskette, which contains a program to further randomize the list. The computer diskette is then sent back to the Clerk of the Circuit Court. The Clerk then places the information from the diskette into the court's computer system. Each term of the Circuit Court, the judge pushes a button on the computer, which causes the computer to select 105 potential jurors for each term of court. During high-profile court cases, more names may be selected.
Each year 80 Grand Jurors are selected for service using the same system as discussed above.
Men and women over the age of 18 years and from all walks of life have an equal opportunity to be called for jury service.
You will go through an orientation program the first time you are required to report for jury duty. The orientation will inform you of the procedures for checking in on days you must report to the courthouse, how to find out when to report, what the court's hours are, and what to do if you have an emergency during jury service. Additionally, you will learn about your role as a juror and what you should and should not do while in the courthouse or serving on jury duty.
Usually, jurors go home at the end of each day and return the next morning. However, in extremely rare cases, a jury will be "sequestered" during the trial or during jury deliberations. Sequestered means that instead of going home at the end of the day, jurors stay in hotels, where their access to other people, radio news, television news, and newspapers is limited. This is done to keep them from accidentally hearing something about the trial that was not told in court or from being influenced by news reports. This is important because juries must reach their decisions based only on what they've heard during the trial. In almost all Virginia jury trials, however, the jury goes home at the end of each day and is simply told by the judge not to discuss the case with anyone, nor to watch, read or listen to news reports about the case. It is essential that you follow these instructions.
Certainly. While efforts are made to reduce delay and avoid waiting time, you may have to wait a while at the courthouse before you find out whether you have been chosen to actually sit on a jury (the reasons why are explained in the next section). So bring a book, or some other quiet activity, or get to know your fellow jurors. Remember that as a juror, you are a vital part of the court system. Part of the job of many court employees, such as the bailiffs and the clerks, is to help make your jury service comfortable and convenient. Do not be afraid to ask them for help.
Your employer can not fine, demote or otherwise penalize you for missing work while performing jury service. Many employers will continue to pay your salary while you are in jury service. Contact your employer to find out what the policy is at your job.
It is very important that all jurors report each day they are told to report and that they be on time. Your absence may delay a trial. If you have an emergency (such as sudden illness or death in the family), call the number on your summons immediately.
Your term of jury service might disturb your regular pattern of work and other activities. If this disruption causes you genuine hardship and not just inconvenience, it may be possible for you to defer your service to another time. However, this is done only in cases of genuine hardship or need. The judge decides whether your jury service can be deferred. If you feel that you can not perform your jury service, call the number listed on your summons to discuss your situation.
You will not be excused because jury service is inconvenient or because you have a busy schedule, but you may be excused for reasons such as physical ailments. If you have special conflicts on particular days during the term, the court may excuse you on those days.
You will be reimbursed $30 per day for attendance for each day you must report to the courthouse. The Virginia General Assembly sets this amount.