Tennessee - Jury Duty Laws, Jury Selection, Juror Qualification
Jury Duty in Tennessee - What to Expect
In the American court system, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to trial by a "jury of their peers". In Tennessee, a pool of potential jurors is randomly selected from the local population of individuals eligible for jury duty.
A prospective juror must:
- Be at least eighteen years of age
- Be a citizen of the United States
- A resident of this state, and of the county in which summoned
- Not convicted of a felony; or perjury or subornation of perjury; or any other infamous offense in a court of competent jurisdiction
How Are Potential Jurors Chosen in Tennessee?
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 Tennessee, as described above.
The jury list is compiled from licensed driver records, or tax records, or other available and reliable sources that are so organized in a manner which allows for automated selection. The jury coordinator may use a single source or any combination of sources, and update as frequently as necessary, but not less than once every two years. Permanent voter registration records are prohibited from being used.
Receiving a Jury Duty Summons in Tennessee
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 TN, 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 Tennessee jury duty obligations are complete.
You will receive nominal Tennessee 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 Tennessee re-adds you to the potential juror pool.
Jurors reporting for jury duty or jury selection in the state of Tennessee 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 Tennessee, 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.
Tennessee Jury Duty Summons Frequency:
A juror who has served shall not be summoned to serve again in any court of Tennessee for a period of 24 months following the last day of previous service
While there are a number of ways to be legally excused from jury duty in Tennessee, failing to appear when summoned for jury selection or jury duty without an excuse is illegal, and can result in legal repercussions.
If a prospective juror fails to appear without showing good cause or the excuse is insufficient, they may be found in civil contempt of court and shall fine a civil penalty up to $500 and the costs of the show cause order.
Penalty may be reduced to $50 if juror serves out their summons.
Employers in Tennessee are also forbidden from penalizing employees who miss work for jury duty.