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Ask Chicagoist: Too Much Civic Duty?

By Thales Exoo in Miscellaneous on Oct 10, 2006 1:30PM

How many times a year can you be summoned to appear for jury duty? It appears that I'm summoned at least 1 a year, it's too much!!!!!!!

2006_10_askjuryduty.jpgDear Perpetual Jury Member,

Chicagoist can only dream of being called in for jury duty so often. There's nothing we like better than trying to travel to the far reaches of the city without a car, sitting in slightly smelly rooms, and waiting for hours on end for something to happen, trying desperately to concentrate on our book as the guy next to us rummages through his bag non-stop (whatever it is, it's just not in there, Sir). Inevitably we just get sent home, grumbling about a wasted day of productivity. Plus there was that time we overheard a couple of snazzily dressed lawyers on the Red Line discussing how they "like to ride with the jury pool every once in awhile." Way to go guys, we're thrilled you were slumming it on the CTA with the likes of us.

We've talked about jury duty in the past here at Ask Chicagoist, and quite frankly it sounds like you could probably write a book and teach us a thing or two about what to expect when going to jury duty, so we'll skip that part.

In response to the ultra-upbeat question -- "after I've served, when am I qualified to serve again?" -- which implies that being called for jury duty is an exclusive event on par with getting into a hot new restaurant, the Circuit Court of Cook County's website informs us that "after completing jury service, you should NOT be called to serve again for a period of 12 months from the date you last served." However, in the true spirit of our judicial system (er ...), the burden to prove that it's been less than 12 months lies on you. Save your paperwork and receipts from each time you serve, as you may need to submit them as your own Exhibit A before they let you off the hook. Call 312-603-JURY to start the process.

Of course there are valid reasons to get out of jury duty, including medical conditions where "jury service presents a hazard to your health" (judicaphobia?), being an active member of the military, having a lawsuit currently filed in Cook County (breaking laws to get out of jury service sounds like a bad sitcom plotline), being the primary caretaker of someone else, living in an institution or nursing home, or where it would cause "severe financial hardship."

You can also have your service delayed for 11 to 22 weeks if the summons conflicts with vacation plans, you are a student or teacher, or you are a seasonal worker. Either being excused or delaying your service also requires proof, documentation, and a call to 312-603-JURY.

Otherwise, you're stuck going in, even if it seems to happen to you every October 15 like clockwork. It's hard to say why some people get called so often, and others of us (knock on wood) have never been called at all. Potential jurors are randomly chosen from a list of Cook County residents compiled by Illinois Secretary of State, the Cook County Board of Elections, and the Chicago Board of Elections. So don't think you can avoid jury service by shirking out on voting, either. They'll still get you on the Secretary of State list, and quite frankly we think that would be an absolutely horrible thing to do. Shame on you for even thinking it. Voting is fun.

Our advice? Hang in there, head off to the jury room for the day with a good book and a fully charged iPod, be thankful it's not a summons to watch the Pauly Shore movie Jury Duty, and (cheesy, we know), be happy you get this opportunity in the first place.

Lyin' to a hangman jury? Need some advice? Email ask(at)chicagoist(dot)com.