It jumps right out at you, that envelope from the County. There’s no mistaking a summons to appear as a juror, even at its first sight in the mailbox. A jury duty summons is usually the last thing people want to see.
“Most folks would rather see anything else,” says Asheville attorney Perry Fisher. “We see it all the time, because people feel like they’re losing something. They would rather get anything else in the mail; a surprise bill, an invitation to an event they don’t want to attend, an overdraft bank notice… anything except a jury summons.”
How was I selected for jury duty?
Many potential jurors feel that jury duty will inconvenience them.
“But I had X, Y, Z planned for that day! Or, I have to go to work that day. And I have a big project due. That’s when my son’s baseball game is. I planned to take my wife on vacation,” are common thoughts among potential jurors.
Potential jurors don’t know how and why they were selected. In truth, though, jury duty falls equally among its citizens.
In Buncombe County, North Carolina, every two years, the Jury Commission compiles a master jury list of names, randomly selected from residents who have driver’s license records or are registered voters.
If you’ve received a jury summons, it’s because your name was randomly selected from that list.
How long does jury duty last?
Perhaps the biggest fear people have about jury duty is the unknown.
“They don’t know when they get that summons, what it actually means,” says Fisher. “And they don’t know what the case is going to be. Also, they may not know where to go. Most of all, they don’t know how long they’ll have to be there.”
How long will it take? Obviously, the time required to serve as a juror depends on the particular case for which you are selected. However, most trials in Buncombe County and beyond conclude within three days to a week.
Where will it take place? The summons will have the address and possible directions listed. In Buncombe County, jurors report to the County Courthouse.
What does a juror do?
As a juror, you will be asked to listen to evidence of a court case, be it civil or criminal. Appraising the value os what was unnaturally taken from a person is the main job of juries.
“No special training is needed,” says Fisher. “All you need to do is listen carefully and use your common sense that you use in everyday life.”
Juries change the world
Serving on a jury is rarely glamorous. No one’s in it for the money or the fame. The reason that we voluntarily agree to be a member of a jury is because of the impact decisions can make. “Participating in a jury can affect the health and safety of everyone,” says Brad Stark, partner at Fisher Stark, P.A. “It may not seem monumental, but jury decisions can save lives. They change poor procedures that endanger people, enforcing community standards that keep us all safe from unreasonable harm and death. This service can and routinely do change the world for the better.”
How much are jurors paid?
In Buncombe County, jurors receive $12 for the first day of service and $20 for the second through fifth days. If your jury service goes beyond five days, you will be paid $40 for each day thereafter.
What to wear for jury duty
In Buncombe County as well as most places in America, there is no set dress code for jury duty. You should dress comfortably and appropriately because temperatures can vary considerably throughout the day.
Most people would consider the courtroom to be a business casual environment.
Can I be fired from my job for jury duty?
Under North Carolina state law, you cannot be fired or demoted for serving on a jury. An employer can, though, withhold pay for the time away from work. If this would create an undue hardship, a potential juror may be dismissed from service.
What happens if I ignore the jury summons?
You don’t want to do this. A notice to appear for possible jury duty is an official court summons. Failure to appear can result in a fine. You can even be held in contempt of court and thrown in jail.
Plus, there are so many reasons to enjoy jury duty too. It’s something new that only 11 other people get to experience with you. Each case is unique. People often learn more about the laws affecting us all. Most importantly, you get to make a difference and can make our communities safer places.
Should I bring anything with me to jury duty?
Since the process is out of your control, there might be some down time while serving on jury duty. It’s usually okay to bring a book, needlework, crossword puzzle and other such materials to occupy time.
Most courts try to minimize downtime and delays in trial starts. However some waiting time should be expected, especially while people are being selected to sit on a jury.
Will I be locked up in a hotel during the trial?
The typical answer is, “No.” Being “sequestered” or kept in a hotel during a trial is extremely rare. Most jurors are allowed to go home at the end of each court day.
In an emergency, how will my family contact me?
In Buncombe County, your family can call the Clerk of Superior Court’s office at 828-259-6407. The staff will make sure that you will get the message.
How will I know what to do as a juror?
When a juror reports to the Buncombe County Courthouse, they are shown a short, instructional video explaining what to expect. The Court Staff will also hand out some additional information.
All jurors will take an oath and be given a red juror’s badge to wear until they are released from jury duty by the judge.
Once a trial begins it’s the judge who instructs jurors as to their duties.
Jury duty – a right and a privilege
All cases are important, often affecting aspects of Buncombe County life beyond that particular trial. You could even potentially be involved in a landmark case with nationwide consequences. Most importantly, though, you are making your community a safer place while participating in an important process.
“People may have been brought [to jury duty] against their will,” says Fisher. “But they can choose to participate in this process as a positive thing. And when they do choose, they have an opportunity to really rise and become heroes. And not just for the plaintiff or for the case, but for themselves and their community.
“That is the opportunity that jury duty is giving them and affording them. By changing your mindset of who you are as a juror, people have a chance to be Citizen Heroes.”
Making America strong
As a North Carolinian, jury service is one of the most valuable contributions you can make as a citizen. Protecting one of the most important rights guaranteed by the United States and North Carolina Constitutions- the right to a trial by jury- is an important service.
“Jury service is the constitutional right that protects the rest of the constitutional rights,” Fisher says.
With the right mindset, serving as a juror is a right, a duty and a positive experience that can change the world for the better.
Knowing the jury duty process is civically rewarding is good for everyone.
Trial attorneys respect jurors
Sometimes fearing jury duty may be because of feelings about lawyers manipulating the process. The attorneys at Fisher Stark, P.A., understand the value of an impartial jury because justice is their goal.
“Here at Fisher Stark, we are not trying to manipulate any person serving as a juror,” says Fisher. “We’re not trying to be anyone but ourselves. In fact, our whole mission is to be the best version of ourselves in the first place. And that’s the type of jurors we want too.
“Good people, making informed decisions as good citizens.”
Exercising our rights as American citizens often means acting for the betterment of everyone. Serving on an impartial jury is an important right. Having competent individuals serving their communities for a matter of days is just one way we can all give back, be part of the process, ultimately making our communities stronger and the world a better place.
Another possible reason for people to react negatively to jury duty are the scams. People are getting calls saying that they didn’t appear for jury duty and will be fined. They are told that fine will be steep, of course, unless they are willing to hand over personal information.
Don’t believe a caller claiming to be with the Courts, who then want personal information over the phone. No county in America will ask for personal information over the phone regarding jury duty.
- Jury communications are almost exclusively done through the U.S. Post Office.
- Calling the County Courthouse yourself allows you to find out if a call claiming to be about jury duty is legitimate.
- Never give out personal information over the phone to someone who calls you. Call the County Courthouse yourself to check if a caller is legitimate.
Asheville trial lawyers
As trial lawyers we know serving on a jury is important. Each juror has the potential to contribute to a greater good, so we appreciate those who engage willingly. Good lawyers want jurors to be themselves and respect their work as contributing citizens.
“Being community minded means you truly do make an important difference,” says Fisher. “Citizens of many other countries never get to exercise such liberties, but in America, we are strongest when we come together, like serving on a jury.”
Fisher Stark, P.A., is a boutique law firm serving Buncombe County and surrounding areas. We have represented people throughout North Carolina in the counties of Madison, Mitchell, Yancey, McDowell, Rutherford, Henderson, Polk, Transylvania, Jackson and Haywood. The firm has also represented clients across the nation, from northern states to southern, east coast to west.
We are located in Asheville, NC, but also serve clients in the surrounding communities of Woodfin, Weaverville, Hot Springs, Mars Hill, Black Mountain, Montreat, Fairview, Royal Pines, Fletcher, Arden, Flat Rock, Hendersonville, Brevard, Highlands, Waynesville and beyond.
Fisher Stark, P.A., has experience with Business, Personal Injury and Condemnation law. You can reach us at 828-505-4300. Our offices are located at 172 D-2 Asheland Ave.