The Importance of Jury Duty

You have received a summons to appear for jury duty. Chances are you will have some immediate concerns, such as do I have to go and what about my job?

Jury trials are an important part of the legal system in Canada.

With a few exceptions, anyone charged with a serious criminal offence can choose a jury trial. Some civil cases are tried with juries, as well.

A jury trial is the most direct way members of the community take part in the justice system.

Most people are eligible to be chosen as jurors. Potential jurors are selected at random and told to show up at the courthouse on a particular day.

When that day arrives all the potential jurors form a jury panel. From this panel, the lawyers, supervised by the judge, will select the jury.

In a criminal case, 12 jurors are chosen; six in a civil suit.

You must show up for the jury panel when summoned. In cases of serious illness or hardship, jury duty can be postponed or even avoided completely. A person with a disability, which affects the capacity to be a juror, will also be excused.

If you are selected as a juror, your employer must give you the time off work.

Usually, you will only be away for a day or two. It is possible; however, that you end up as a juror in a trial which lasts several weeks, or even months in extreme cases.

You will be reimbursed travel expenses for getting to court. You will also be paid a modest daily fee for each day beyond the tenth day of jury duty.

If you are chosen as a juror, you are not allowed to discuss any aspect of the case with anyone, not even your spouse. You should not talk to anyone who approaches you about the case.

It is a serious offence to attempt to influence, bribe or threaten a jury member; if anyone does, inform the Judge or other Court Officials as soon as possible.

There is no dress code for jurors, but try not to wear anything too flashy. After all, the attention is supposed to be on the case at hand, not you.

Finally, your jury duty should be taken seriously. You will be dealing in almost all cases with decisions, which greatly affect the lives of those involved.

Being on a jury is one of the most sacred trusts in the tradition of our legal system.

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