The Common Law

Trying to Avoid Jury Duty?

I recently got a notice to report for jury duty. My work and home life are really busy and stressful. Spending several days on a jury is the last thing I need right now. Is there a way to get out of jury duty?

Not under the circumstances you've described. The Texas Government Code addresses jury duty, including the general qualifications needed for jury service as well as reasons that will allow a potential juror to be exempted from jury service.

The first step in jury service is to determine whether you qualify to serve. According to the Texas Government Code, you cannot serve as a juror unless you are at least 18 years old, a citizen of Texas and the county where you'll serve as juror, and qualified to vote in the county. The law also requires that you be of "sound mind and good moral character," be able to read and write, have not been convicted of a felony, and are not under indictment or legal accusation of theft or any felony.

Assuming you qualify as a juror, the next step is to determine whether any legal exemptions apply that would exempt you from service. The list of exemptions is fairly extensive. Examples of commonly used exemptions include being over 70 years of age, having child care responsibilities for a child younger than 10 years old, being a high school or college student, being on active military duty, or having had previous jury service within the last two years.

Judges also have the discretion to hear any reasonable sworn excuse of a prospective juror and to release that person from jury service entirely. But before you start thinking about your best excuse for getting out of jury duty, you should know that judges do not like to release potential jurors from jury duty and often only do so very sparingly.

Put simply, if you want out of jury service because you are busy, it is highly unlikely that a judge will exercise his or her discretion by releasing you for that reason. Read next week's column for nuts-and-bolts information about jury service.

Please submit column suggestions, questions, and comments to thecommonlaw@austinchronicle.com. Submission of potential topics does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any information submitted is subject to being included in future columns.

Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.

The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.

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