About Federal Court Jury Service
Jury service is one of the most important civic duties you can perform. The protection of rights and liberties in federal courts is largely achieved through the teamwork of a judge and jury.
Did you receive a letter requiring you to complete a Juror Qualification Questionnaire online? Click here for more information.
The United States District Court for the District of Oregon randomly selects citizens' names every two years from lists of registered voters who live in the district. The people randomly selected are required to complete a Qualification Questionnaire to help determine if they are qualified to serve on a jury. Those found qualified are added to the Qualified Jury Wheel and are eligible to be randomly chosen for jury duty during a two-year period. This selection process helps to make sure that jurors represent a cross section of the community, without regard to race, gender, national origin, age, or political affiliation.
Receiving a Summons for Jury Service does not guarantee that a person will actually serve on a jury. When a jury is needed for a trial, a randomly selected group of jurors will be sent a Summons for Jury Service and will be required to respond to the Summons for Jury Service electronically or by mail. Jurors who receive a Summons for Jury Service may be required to report to the courthouse for jury selection. Jurors who are required to report to the courthouse for jury selection will go through juror orientation and will be taken to the courtroom where the trial will take place. The judge and the attorneys then ask the potential jurors questions to determine their suitability to serve on the jury, a process called voir dire.
The purpose of voir dire is to exclude from the jury people who may not be able to decide the case fairly. Members of the panel who know any person involved in the case, who have information about the case, or who may have strong prejudices about the people or issues involved in the case, typically will be excused by the judge. The attorneys also may exclude a certain number of jurors without giving a reason.
Types of Cases Heard by Juries
There are two types of judicial proceedings in the federal courts that use juries.
- Criminal trial: An individual is accused of committing a crime that is a violation of federal criminal law. Twelve people, and alternates, make up a criminal jury. A unanimous decision must be reached before a defendant is found "guilty." The government must prove the crime was committed "beyond a reasonable doubt."
- Civil trial: Litigants seek remedies for grievances between private parties. At least six people make up a civil jury. The standard of proof is a "preponderance of the evidence" or "more true than not."
Working Together: Judge and Jury
The judge determines the appropriate law that should be applied to the case, and the jury finds the facts in the case based on what is presented to them during the proceedings. At the end of a trial, the judge instructs the jury on the applicable law. While the jury must obey the judge's instructions as to the law, the jury alone is responsible for determining the facts of the case.
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