Massachusetts - Jury Duty Laws, Jury Selection, Juror Qualification
Jury Duty in Massachusetts - What to Expect
In the American court system, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to trial by a "jury of their peers". In Massachusetts, a pool of potential jurors is randomly selected from the local population of individuals eligible for jury duty.
A prospective juror must be:
- a citizen of the United States
- a resident of the county in which summoned
- at least 18 years old
- able to read, write, and speak the English language
- not be deemed incompetent due to medical or physical infirmity
- not convicted of a felony within the last 7 years
How Are Potential Jurors Chosen in Massachusetts?
The first stage in jury selection is summoning a pool of potential jurors from the list of local citizens eligible to serve on a jury in Massachusetts, as described above.
On or before the first day of June of each year, each city and town compiles a sequentially "Numbered Resident list" consisting of the names, addresses, and dates of birth of all persons who were seventeen years of age or older in the of the current year. Duplicates are avoided. On or before the first day of October of each year, the office of jury commissioner prepare the master juror list for each judicial district using the names submitted by the towns and cities.
Receiving a Jury Duty Summons in Massachusetts
If your name is randomly selected for the jury pool through the process described above, you receive a jury summons in the mail instructing you to appear for jury selection on a pre-set day.
While there are a few excuses for getting out of jury selection in MA, most people summoned will have to report to the courthouse for the next stage of the juror selection process, voir dire.
The Juror Selection Process, or "Voir Dire"
Just because you qualify to be a juror and are summoned for jury selection, doesn't mean that you will be selected to be a juror on a case. The process of "Voir Dire", the actual act of jury selection, is how judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors actually choose the individuals who will sit on the juries for upcoming criminal and civil cases.
During the voir dire process, each lawyer will ask the pool of potential jurors a series of questions about their background, beliefs, prejudices, or relationships with any party to the case. While the goal is to select an impartial jury to render a verdict, each attorney will also seek to exclude any jurors who seem to be more likely to vote against their client's interests. While jury candidates are instructed to be open and truthful when answering such questions, the juror selection process is also where most individuals who don't wish to serve on a trial find a way to be excused from further juror duties.
What Happens After Jury Selection Day
If you are selected to serve on a jury, you will be provided with the trial date, and must return to serve on the jury for the duration of the trial and deliberations. If you were not selected to serve on any jury during the voir dire process, you can go home, and your Massachusetts jury duty obligations are complete.
You will receive nominal Massachusetts jury duty pay for the jury selection day, as well as for any days served on a jury. Once your service is complete, you won't be summoned for jury duty again until Massachusetts re-adds you to the potential juror pool.
Jurors reporting for jury duty or jury selection in the state of Massachusetts are expected to dress professionally, in a manner appropriate for a court room.
Most courthouses suggest dress ranging from business casual to business attire. For men, this means slacks or khakis and a polo or button-down shirt, potentially with a tie or suit jacket. For women, this means a professional-looking pair of pants or a skirt, cardigan, sweater, twinset, or shirt.
As a juror, you are expected to maintain a professional and respectable appearance while performing your duties. Hats should never be worn in a courtroom, and you should avoid wearing shorts, t-shirts, tanktops, or anything printed with logos or slogans.
While jury duty is a civic requirement for all eligible citizens in Massachusetts, the state restricts how often you can be summoned for jury duty in order to ensure a fresh jury pool and prevent undue hardship by being summoned too frequently.
Massachusetts Jury Duty Summons Frequency:
Potential jurors in Massachusetts may only be selected for jury duty once every three years.
While there are a number of ways to be legally excused from jury duty in Massachusetts, failing to appear when summoned for jury selection or jury duty without an excuse is illegal, and can result in legal repercussions.
Willful misrepresentation of material fact in the confidential questionnaire for the purpose of either avoiding or securing service be punishable by a fine of up to $2,000.
Jurors failing to appear receive a Failure to Appear Notice, followed by a Delinquency Notice, Notice of Application for Criminal Complaint is still failing to show cause for non-appearance. Arraignment and warrant for arrest follow if the matter is still not resolved, as well as other possible consequences such as driver's license suspension.
Employers in Massachusetts are also forbidden from penalizing employees who miss work for jury duty.