Dear PoP – Jury duty for 18 months!?!?!

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“Dear PoP,

I’ve been summoned for grand jury duty to the US District Court for the District of Columbia (not to be confused with regular DC court jury duty). The summons specifically says that full time employment is not a hardship excuse. It just seems crazy to me that anyone would be expected to take this much time out of their life – I have really demanding full time job working on policy, and during this 18 months there will be at least one major piece of legislation that I need to be available to work on. There’s no way that I can competently do my job, which will involve 60-hour + work weeks when I’m working on this bill, 3 days a week. My employer will continue to pay me for full time work, which I am really grateful for, but I’m still really worried about the long term impact this is going to have on my career (and my sanity). I’m all for doing my civic duty, but this is nuts!”

Holy cow! I’ve never heard of 18 month jury duty before. I bet it is an interesting case… Apparently the duty is for ‘only‘ two days per week. Do you think the two days a week are rotating? Anyone else ever hear of something like this before? What would you do if you got summoned for 18 month jury duty?

65 Comment

  • When I was an intern in law school, one of the attorneys at the office had been chosen for this 18 month grand judy duty service. I recall that he was required to go ocne a week. Because of this, he was transferred from his position in the trial division to a position in the parole division where he’d appear only in front of the US Parole Comm, not in court all the time. Very onerous on the schedule.

    Relatedly, I was recently ‘on call’ for federal jury duty meaning I had to phone in everyday for two and a half weeks to see whether I’d be required to report the next day. That summons also specifically stated that full time employment and missing work would not be considered hardships. Here’s what really sucked: if I’d been chosen, my office policy distates that I only get paid leave for three days, after which I’d have had to have used my own vacation time or taken unpaid leave. Would have been a HUGE problem if I actually got picked. Feel sorry for the OP.

    Just tell them that you won’t be able to judge anyone becasue that’s God’s job. That should do the trick.

    • ah

      You don’t get dismissed for cause from a grand jury, so telling them you’re a racist also won’t work.

      18 months is standard in the federal system. Since federal court handles only larger crimes in DC this won’t be every-day cases of small-time drug dealing. More like federal corruption cases, gangland murders and so forth.

      Here’s a summary.

  • Just to be clear –

    the poster is talking about grand jury duty. A grand jury is charged with listening to the prosecutor present evidence and to determine whether there is enough evidence to hand down a indictment. There is no defense attorney present. The grand jury hears many such presentations, and is accordingly not limited to one particular case, case, or judge.

    When people think of jury duty, what they are usually thinking of petit jury service, which is when a jury is empaneled to hear a particular case and decide on the guilt/innocence (criminal) or liablity (civil) of the defendant. If chosen, these last the length of the trial, typically a few days to a couple weeks.

    Because a grand jury is not specifically about a particular case, service is determined by length of time only – in this case approximately 8 days per month for 18 months.

    IMO, this is outrageous.

  • Yes, I got that summons a few years back– 18 months of 2 or 3 days a week. I am also all for doing my civic duty. I go into every round of regular DC jury duty hoping to get picked. I never have been. But 18 months is just nuts. Luckily for me, my term was slated to begin two weeks after my baby’s due date, so I sent in a note from my doctor and was excused.

  • I had one summer Grand Jury duty three days a week for eight weeks, which was certainly lengthy enough. I’ve heard of 18 month Grand Jury terms, but only for a few days per month. Several days each WEEK for 18 months sounds absolutely insane, I’ve never heard of anything like that!

  • I have a co-worker who was summed for GJ in the district a few years ago. She was also told it would be 3 days a week for 18 mon. and it ended up being far less than that.

    I think what I remember hearing about this is that the significant length of time one is asked to serve is due to the fact that the population is so small in the city that the residents have a disproportionate commitment level to those in the burbs for their jurisdictions.

  • I wonder if it’s related to the fact that almost no one in DC actually shows up for jury duty.

    Kind of like you screw the people who show up because you’re too lazy to fix the broader system.

  • I’ve done the 5 days a week for 30 days and then 2 recall days of GJD… mostly homicides. Prepare for the worst, but I would be willing to wager it is no where near the maximum you are fearing. If it is, I’ll send you a check.

    • You’re talking about Superior Court for DC. Its grand jury is 30 days (5 days per week). Federal grand jury is 18 months, 2 days per week. Start writing your check.

      • Thank you, I do know I’m talking about DC Superior Court, I was there for it. As a result of being there, I also learned that Federal court has 18 month rotations that are 2 or 3 days a week. Often times, you have to be available, but do not have to show up unless you are needed… you call in on your days. Therefore my claim stands, you will not be there 18 months, 3 days a week.

  • I can’t say whether this applies to Grand Jury Duty service, but for regular jury duty in DC Superior Court you cannot be summoned until ten years after any part of your sentence for a felony conviction has concluded. Meaning: you get convicted, are in prison for five years, then on parole/probation for 10, ten years after that, you can be on a jury. This is another reason why the pool of eligible jurors is smaller here. And, let’s be honest, means getting in front of a jury of “peers” is practically impossible.

  • I call schenanigans. Grand Jury service in D.C. is supposed to be 25 work days plus two callback days. Yeah, it sucks, but that’s the breaks.

    D.C.. jury info:

    • Stating the Obvious, the OP clearly said the call was for “US District Court for the District of Columbia (not to be confused with regular DC court jury duty).”

      So s/he got called for FEDERAL court and the link you posted is obviously irrelevant.

    • Learn your jurisdictions. Federal grand jury is not the same as DC grand jury.

  • I’m a DC resident, and I just received this exact same summons today!
    It’s insane, honestly. Does this mean that I won’t be able to plan any vacations, or anything else that involves me being out of DC for more than four consecutive days, until the late spring of 2012?
    Also, while I’m doing freelance work now, I imagine at some point in the future I might want to apply for some sort of full time work. How do you think this would play out in an interview:
    “Oh, definitely, I can start right away! Only…I’ll need to be out of the office on Tuesday and Thursday…of every week until May 12, 2012. I assume that won’t make a difference in your hiring decision? I mean, it is for jury duty, after all.”

    • I served on federal grand jury in DC for 12 months (I was an alternate called up after someone moved) and they ended up also EXTENDING us for an additional 6 months… (18 months for me, 24 months for others!) just over 2 years ago.

      You can take vacations, you can miss if you are sick, etc… you just need to give them advanced warning (if you’re sick you have to call the foreman). Also, some days you’ll report, and some days you won’t (you have to call in the night before). Some days you’ll report for 2 hours, others the entire day. Between Thanksgiving and New Years we barely reported. It sucked for a while but we had some amazing high profile cases, so it wasn’t too bad. You’ll also have over 250+ cases presented to you, so it keeps it interesting.

      And, if you’re doing freelance, you’d be surprised that they end up paying pretty well (considering how much actual time you spend in court). The pay increases after you have done it for a few months.

      Finally, best advice I can give you 1) don’t try to get out of it. Of the 26 people selected almost all of them (80% tried to get off), perhaps karma but still just ride it out. 2) don’t be foreman, too much responsibility (and you have to be in front where the occasionally bring people in still shackled up!) 3) ask a lot of questions if you serve. Its your chance to be judge!

      Finally, don’t think you are off the hook if you don’t get selected the first round. I was actually called up an alternate AFTER I thought I was in the clear. You can breathe easy once those 18 months have passed, until then you’re on their list!

      • No!! Ask questions, but only if it is RELEVANT. Don’t let the power go to your head. It will piss off everyone, and you will look like an idiot because you’re asking irrelevant questions.

    • Tell them you’re not a US citizen.

  • Where’s this job where you only have to work on one significant thing in the next 18 months?

  • I received a similar summons for federal jury a few years back and they wanted me to start the week after I started my new job. I wrote in to explain and asked if I could be excused for one year. They said ok, and sure enough, one year later another summons showed up.

    I too had work conflicts and made my case when I replied and explained the days I would need to be at work and why. They had me as part of the pool, but I never got called in. Not sure if that was luck, or because I had so many conflicts. I had to check every night to see if I needed to come in the next morning. It made planning any meetings kind of tricky but it worked out.

  • I’m going to add that I really think it’s important for people who actually work to make the sacrifice if at all possible.

    When the jury pool dwindles to only people who have time on their hands, I think you tend to get opinions that are far out of line with what most people would consider wise.

  • (1) It’s federal grand jury service, and 18 months is the standard empanelment. If you want the bad news, it is that your service actually may be extended by the court beyond those 18 months.

    (2) You’re not likely to have to go every time it’s scheduled; that’s just the maximum. It depends on whether the prosecutors need the grand jury. You will have full days of testimony and evidence, and you will have other days that likely get canceled due to lack of need.

    (3) Even then, it’s typical that you can miss a few days — you work this out with the grand jury foreman ahead of time, let him know you won’t be there. The grand jury will have 23 members, and only 16 of them need to be there for it to do business. You can take vacations or have can’t-miss weeks at work; you just can’t be the person who never shows up.

    (4) Way to sound so self-important! This is the way the federal criminal justice system works and how it has worked for years. If you want a jury of your peers — and as a citizen, you probably do — then part of that means that people with busy jobs on an upward career trajectory have the same civic duty as minimum wage worker or a retired machinist.

  • A few years back I was selected for the very same Federal GJ duty and let me tell you it was hell!!!!!! Not only did I have to go two days a week for 18 months, I had to hear about some of the most horrific cases imaginable, hundreds of them. My boss was pissed off about my missing so much work that she took me off all the projects I was working on and I was passed up for a promotion I deserved. My co-workers were angry because they thought I was slacking off. If they only knew the stress of having to hear about murderers, pedophiles and and the like maybe they wouldn’t have given me so much shit. My mental health seriously deteriorated. On the flip side, I’m now an expert in federal criminal law and I sort of miss knowing what’s going down in DC. Good luck and god speed cause Federal Grand Jury duty totally SUCKS!!!!!!

  • I think if more people knew about points #2 and 3 above, there might not be so much resistance. As I said, I had an unassailable excuse not to serve, but without knowing this, I would have done my best to get out it anyway. If there were some indication that vacations and sick days are permitted, that would change my attitude.

  • No offense but lots and lots of people in DC have a “really demanding full time job working on policy” and some people have have jobs that are more more demanding and more important.

    Sure this is a time suck and inconvenient but this isn’t just a duty but a privilege. Call me pie-eyed but this is important. Take it as a learning experience.

    • Well let’s not confuse the issue to people who go to a job for a living: –the PROCEDURES for jury duty were created during a time when the average jurist was either a landed elite or had a largely agrarian income. The current system of empaneling a jury is largely out of touch with today’s workforce and is needlessly burdensome.

      That being said, until the system is fixed, we all have to suck it up.

  • “This is the way the federal criminal justice system works and how it has worked for years.” I fail to see how that is a logical reason for keeping the system the way it is. I think a lot of people would be much more willing to serve and it would be much easier to actually assemble a jury of one’s peers if they had shorter terms of service (6 months, say?).

  • Does anyone know what the selection is based on? Having a DC drivers license? Voter registration?

    • License, voter roles, tax filings. DC doesn’t play, once they know about you, consider yourself on the rolls for both Federal and DC courts, and be prepared to get called up every 2 years.

      • You can get called up more often that every 2 years. Service in DC does not exempt you from service on a federal jury. I got called up for federal jury service two months after DC jury duty, and federal had far fewer reasons for letting you out of it.

      • ANON is right about petit jury service at least. In the six years I’ve been here (4 of which I’ve been a tax paying, licensed resident therefore discoverable by the govt), I’ve been called up twice. I will be called again in March 2011. The little man at the courthouse last time actually said to all of us when we were excused after having not been picked, “See you in March 2011.” I sort of like the predictability.

      • me

        Hmm.. I’ve had a DC license and have owned my place here for almost 5 years and haven’t been called up yet. Knocking on wood!

  • what do you do if you don’t get paid if you don’t show up for an hourly job? will they let you out?

    • Probably not unless you can demonstrate an undo burden. If you’re hourly, the assumption is that you can work a different shift.

  • It sure sucks having to serve your country every once in a while, doesn’t it?

    Good thing you aren’t a lot older. You could have been drafted for Vietnam or WWII. I bet that REALLY would have messed up your career.

    Suck it up. Citizens have rights and responsibilities. Quit whining and fulfill your obligation.

    I have a prediction that if you are ever charged with a crime, you’ll all of a sudden think having juries are a good idea.

  • two weeks after I got my DC drivers license, i got called for jury duty – a 5 to 8 day trial. I actually really wanted to be chosen because I’ve always been curious about the process. However, I think the reason I was dismissed during selection was that I was really restless. I have a hard time sitting for long periods of time, and that may have read as I didn’t have the attention span or interest needed to serve. But who knows.

  • BS to the above, let Ryan serve! Fight it NOW with a letter that indicates you are key to the organization, etc. And, even if that does not work, on the 1st day you show up, they ask for people to indicate to them about why they can’t serve and MANY people left without having to do anything further. What happened to me was I still thought I’d be “picked” and the next day found out differently and that they DID expect me to show up for five days a week for five weeks to the grand jury. No matter what I said or did or my letter to the judge worked (and their are some rude and lazy people working at the court). Then, I just decided to call in sick, emergency deadline, car trouble, cat to the vet, etc 3 days a week and that worked fine and I served about twice a week.

  • I received a summons for this same type of jury duty about 1 1/2 years ago and managed to get out of it due to my employer’s policy of only paying for one month’s worth of jury duty service (I think that was why I got out of it; they never told me for sure). The court only pays something like $40 a day of service. When you compare that to what you make in a typical day, it’s nothing. If I were to serve 2 days/week over 18 months my income would take a serious hit and I would actually have a hard time paying some of my bills. I wrote a letter explaining all of this and included something like 5 attachments – a copy of my paycheck, the relevant pages of my company’s policy manual, etc. I even included copies of news articles in the Washington Post discussing the layoffs my company had to demonstrate that I could be at risk of losing my job if we had more layoffs.

    I know you said that your employer will pay for your service but if you have any evidence you can provide that will demonstrate that this will indeed pose a financial hardship, do send it in b/c it actually worked in my case. For example, could it impact bonuses or promotions in some way that you can demonstrate on paper? Send it anything you have that might support your case. I was surprised it worked for me, but it actually did.

  • The 1:36pm commenter above said it well, but I’ll add my bit.

    I am a DC resident and served on a federal grand jury a few years ago. Yes, it is a major life change. Fortunately my company was incredibly supportive while I served. In fact, my bosses thought it was pretty cool. Two set days a week, Tues/Thurs or Wed/Fri. Keep in mind that it is nothing like regular trial jury duty, and you aren’t in a courtroom. (During my term we moved from the elegant marble-walled jury rooms of Watergate fame to a featureless, windowless conference room in the new wing of the courthouse. Boo.)

    The good news is that this being DC, you will be hearing cases of national and international import. Front-page, above-the-fold, top-of-the-news, book-and-movie stuff. You get to participate and personally question the witnesses (not to mention the investigators and the prosecutors.) I am about as far from the law as you can get—I’m in the creative/design field—but I found it incredibly fascinating, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do it.

    The bad news? Your 18-month term is almost 100% guaranteed to be extended to two years. Go ahead and assume that it will and plan accordingly. Think seriously about volunteering to be the foreperson or deputy foreperson, if for no other reason than that they coordinate jurors’ vacations and time away. You can’t abuse the privilege, but if you are having a busy week at work and get to the jury session and there are enough jurors present to have a quorum—16 out of 23 if I recall—you can ask the foreperson to excuse you for the day and you can go to work instead. On many days you’ll be done by noon, and on many days you won’t go in at all. Also, a couple of folks on my jury served for a few months, then went to the judge and asked to be replaced due to work situations, and their requests were granted. Another juror moved to Arlington after a few months of serving, thus disqualifying himself! (Getting out of service at the start, when the judge first selects you, is very difficult. “I have a job/life” won’t do it.)

    Lastly, after serving for two years, I recently got summoned to serve AGAIN. Now that was a bit rich. I mean, come on, four years? The second time around, I got out of it, though technically, prior service does not excuse you.

    PS: The cafeteria in the federal courthouse is decent, and has a postcard-perfect view of the Capitol.

    • I got called for a federal case once but they settled it before it went to trial. I am almost positive it was the Cisneros trial. They had a short write up a day or so later how they had had to call over 300 people because the thought that many would get disqualified because of connections and political bias, etc.

  • Thanks for the insight about vacation time, possible pay increase over time, the ability to move away if necessary, etc. That’s all very helpful to know!
    For the record, having served on jury duty before in DC Superior Court, I actually really enjoyed the process and look forward to possibility of working on some interesting cases in Federal Grand Jury. I don’t want to get out of it. I was just worried about basically being unable to get away from DC, even for a few days, for possibly the next 18 to 24 months. (That’s part of the reason I quit my job and decided to freelance in the first place!)

  • That’s scary. I would lose my job if I was unable to work full-time for over a year, period. Plus, at my company you have to take vacation time or unpaid leave for jury duty. Do they still expect you to serve for that long if it will cost you your job?

  • 18 months is normal for federal grand jury service. one of the side effects of living in dc is that the numbers of federal jury cases in the district is wildly disproportionate to the number of residents as compared to other districts. it’s likely to be interesting. it’s not everyday. your bosses are probably legally required to accomodate your service. seriously, it’s not that bad.

  • what if you’re a one person shop who would have to close in order to attend jury duty (i.e. jury duty = no revenue)? Would that be considered a hardship?
    You know, I still need to pay the rent for my office and other business expenses.

  • This sounds pretty cool (famous last words, I know). While I live in Petworth, I’m active duty and don’t have a DC license, nor vote nor pay taxes to DC other than property tax. I think that I’m probably off the jury duty rolls.

    I know that I’d get paid my usual salary during jury duty time, and would forfeit all pay, other than a transportation stipend.

  • I got called for the DC grand jury for a five-day-a-week, two-month-long service and fortunately was switched over to petit jury when I explained to the clerk that I worked in a four-person nonprofit office where no one could take that much time off. Of course I got called to sit on a trial, a boring real estate civil suit.

    The federal grand jury would definitely give me sweats about my job.

  • Your boss isn’t legally allowed to fire you for going to jury duty.

    • No, but they’re allowed to pass you up for a promotion. They’re allowed to deny you vacation. They’re allowed to demote you. And your coworkers are allowed to treat you like crap.

  • Wah wah wah. It’s your duty as a citizen. The end.

  • Just think about the people who have to wait for justice for 18 months or more because of lazy jurors or the ones who skip duty

  • Why haven’t you volunteered to serve 2 days a week for 18 months? Oh you don’t want to? You’re a hypocrite. The end.

  • I feel sorry for OP and the other people involved. Most civilized countries have moved beyond the grand jury system. Only the US remains in the dark ages.

  • I got out of grand jury duty last winter by saying I was planning a move out of the DC area over the summer.

    FWIW, I have no problem serving on a jury, but this expectation is just ridiculous.

  • I served as foreperson on a Federal grand jury in DC for 24 months (18 months plus a six month extension). We heard evidence on 120+ cases and indicted 100+ individuals. Nearly everyone that was indicted plead. The experience definitely deepened by understanding of the District, MPD, and my connections to all facets of the community. A former superviser who suggested pointedly that the grand jury was effecting my work received a quick letter from the chief judge telling him that if he said it again she’d hold him in contempt of court.

  • I just finished eight weeks of grand jury service – three days a week plus two additional recall days. We heard over 150 cases and between the fights between jury members, disrespectful court staffers, witnesses who refused to cooperate, not to mention working three to eight hours a day for my “real” job after being in court all day – I was ready to lose my mind. Apparently, I am “on call” for a total of eighteen months despite serving (and staying awake, unlike many of my other jurors) and could get called in by the court. I seriously do not understand how people are expected to hold a job/have a life for these ridiculous terms of service. I don’t mind doing my civic duty, but as a professional person interested in building my career — eight weeks of service plus the chance to get called back in seems ridiculous. Although, I guess for every honest person who answers their summons to court, there are at least five more that just throw it in the trash and rarely (if ever) face a consequence for ignoring the summons.

  • 18 months is crazy. Try!!! lol

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