What to Expect When You’re Summoned to Jury Duty in Tennessee

If you’ve been summoned for jury duty in Tennessee, you may have a copious amount of questions and concerns about the process. Being chosen to serve on a jury carries the obligation and responsibility of appearing at your local courthouse to go through the selection process, and possible trial. It’s more than an invitation or suggestion; rather, it is mandatory unless you qualify for significant circumstances which may prevent you from giving your full and objective attention to the court. In this case, your summoned could be excused. 

The Higgins Firm, a leading Tennessee law firm located in Nashville, fully understands the summoning process and the requirements of a juror. As top Nashville personal injury lawyers, they are routinely involved in cases which go to trial. In these situations, there will be a jury of peers who are responsible for making a logical, deducted decision about the evidence presented; ultimately choosing whether or not the defendant is guilty. Our attorneys may be directly involved in the jury selection process to ensure a fair and just outcome of any given case.

Whether you’ve been summoned for jury, or know someone who has, you may benefit from some of the following common questions and their respective answers.

What type of trials does a juror hear?

As a juror, you may sit in at a criminal or civil court case. During a criminal case, a district attorney acting on the behalf of Tennessee prosecutes an individual or entity, otherwise known as the ‘defendant’, who has been accused of a crime. In civil cases, an individual or entity brings forth a legal suit against another individual or entity. The party initiating the lawsuit is known as the ‘plaintiff’; whereas, the party defending the suit is known as the ‘defendant’. 

How long will I have to serve s a juror?

These varies depending on the counter, however, once you have served your dutiful time, you will not be summoned for Tennessee jury duty for at least 24 months. Do keep in mind that some cases could run on for an extended period of time; this is on a case-by-case basis.

What can I expect when I report for jury duty?

In general, most people who have been summoned for jury duty will not actually serve. More individuals will be summoned than what’s needed to allow the judge and presiding attorneys to select jurors based upon sound reasoning during the voir dire (i.e. questioning of the jury panel). Moreover, the court may not know the exact number of jurors needed on any given day. Therefore, you may be considered to be “on-call”. Because many local jurisdictions are working to improve the efficiency of the system,  it’s prudent o provide your correct contact details should the court wish to inform you of your service needs. 

How am I chosen to sit on the jury?

During the selection process, you and other summoned jurors, will be questioned by the judge or attorneys for a particular case. It’s vital to listen to the questions and answer as honestly as possible. This selection helps the attorneys to choose the best jury, so your answers are dependent on whether or not you may be selected to serve. If not, you may be asked to appear in another selection process for a different case. Throughout this time, there may be waiting periods which make for a great opportunity to rest, relax, read and socialize.  

What happens if I’m chosen to serve?

When you’re selected, the presiding judge will likely discuss your responsibilities as a juror before the trial begins. These may include prohibitions against discussing the trial or its proceedings until the trial ends and deliberations begin. The judge may also review the importance of paying attention to witness testimonies and all available evidence presented. You will also be educated about the laws which govern the case, and guided through the decision making process. 

What should I wear?

It is ultimately up to the judge to decide what attire is courtroom appropriate. However, it’s generally not advisable to wear shorts, short skirts, sagging pants, suggestive or see-through clothing, visible undergarments, flip-flops, house shoes, bandanas, headbands, hats/caps, or clothing with inappropriate or offensive advertisements or slogans.

What happens if I have an emergency on the day of jury duty?

Call the Circuit Court Clerk’s office directly and inform them of your situation. It is highly advisable to avoid failing to show up as this action could be punishable by fines and/or jail time. 

Will I be paid?

Under Tennessee law, jurors receive $11 for each day of attendance. Your employer may also be required to compensate you for time lost to jury duty. This statute can exempt certain employers who may have less than five full time employees or if you’ve been working at an establishment for less than six months. In this situation, the summoned juror may be excused. 

Jury Duty is More Than Your Obligation 

Appearing for jury duty is just as rewarding as it is important. As a juror, you are helping to resolve disputes and serve justice in the one of the most respected legal systems. Throughout the process, you will be treated with reverence and honor. By the time your service has completed, no matter what the decision you and your peers sound-fully made, you will be kindly thanked. 
To find out more about being summoned for jury duty, be sure watch our recent talk show which discusses the Tennessee jury duty process in more detail.