Dear PoPville – Grand Jury Duty and Electronics?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Nivad

Dear PoPville,

I just got my summons for a 5 week grand jury stint later this summer. You published a letter last year from former jurors about the policy forbidding any electronics, and I was curious whether or not there were any updates on that front. I want to make sure my employer knows how much (if at all) I’ll be able to work during normal work hours.

The Superior Court of the District of Columbia responded to that letter and they have not received word on:

“any official policy prohibiting the possession of electronic devices…”

You can read the full letter here. Anyone do grand jury duty recently? Were you able to use electronics?

20 Comment

  • Very timely post! I start my service on Monday and would like to know too.

  • Grand juries aren’t at Superior Court; they’re at the U.S. Attorney’s Office. You can’t take electronic devices past the security desk in that building, but you can check them there and pick them up when you leave for breaks and at the end of the day.

    • From my experience a year and a half ago, they’re not at all keen on having you check laptops or get things during breaks. They want you to bring only your phone and not get it back till you leave for the day.

  • I appeared for my grand jury duty service (but was freed) but the same policy is in place – no electronics at all!

  • Last fall – seven months ago – my Android tablet was entirely banned and the rentacops were very unhappy I had brought it. They will happily routinely take your phone in the morning and give it back at the end of the day. They will not give it back to you midday. They don’t give you anything at breaks unless you make special arrangements with the people who run jury duty, who want the exception to be for something like “getting phone calls for job offers.”

    • The whole situation is disgraceful. Civic duty is fine and dandy, but there are some very simple steps they could take to make it less of a hardship for people. It’s kind of infuriating.

      • Plus, the whole Grand Jury system has been manipulated to become nothing close to what it was created for. Originally it was to give people MORE rights, to place a burden on the government to prove evidence against someone before going through with arrests, charging them, wasting peoples time, etc. They’ve become a black hole where the government in many cases goes on wild goose chases for political and personal vendettas against people. You can’t go in with an attorney if you are subpoened, you can’t please the 5th, and you can be thrown in jail 18months in solitary for refusing to answer. This has happened to many people in the US recently and it’s on the rise. Google “northwest grand jury resistors”

        • plead*

        • Maybe in some places. DC seemed pretty well run. Maybe that’s because its run by the US attorney’s office.

          When I served we threw out several weak cases. Also all of the witnesses could have legal counsel outside the room and were able to step out for advice whenever they needed to.

  • I just served my 5 weeks in Feb-March. You can only take your phone and it must be checked at the door. You cannot use it at lunch unless you have special permission and cleared this with security beforehand. Each room has a TV and DVD player for use on your cases, but most juries bring in DVD’s to watch in their down time. They did get another full sized fridge (instead of just the mini one talked about in the post from a year ago). They also have redone all the room since then, but it doesn’t mean much.

    If you do not want to serve…I enjoyed it, most people do not (but I had coverage at work). You can only have 23 people serve in each jury – no more than that. You need 16 people each day to show up to conduct your service. (they allow you to take off for previously planned vacations / appointments as long as more than 3 people aren’t out each day) They start off with 40-50 people int he court room and ask for who cannot serve. They make it seem as if you need to have rock hard solid proof you cannot, but again, they cannot take more people than 23 so they have to dismiss a certain amount. Make a decent excuse and get up early when they ask to speak to the people who cant make it. Tell them your the only one to pick up kids at daycare, or that you started a new project in your job and the only one who can handle it. Offer to do the one day/one trial service instead and you should be able to get out.

    • I just want to add a couple more things on how to get out of it. First, try to get yourself seated near the front on the aisle so that you have easy access to the bench (more on this later). The second key thing is to keep counting how many people are in the room. As Ryan said, they start off with 40 or 50 and then weed out a few based on various reasons (economic hardship, upcoming surgery, conflict of interest, etc). This can take a little while and during this process many people just nod off or get immersed in their book. However, you need to keep vigilant and KEEP COUNTING HEADS. If the number drops down to the mid-20s you’re in trouble and probably not getting out of it, however if you notice that there are about 30 people left and it appears that the weeding process is coming to an end be sure to gather your belongings and be ready to quickly approach the bench if they ask for “volunteers” to be removed from the panel. That’s why being up front on the aisle helps.
      You’re welcome.

  • I had grand jury duty for six weeks in the spring of 2010. The rule at that time was you could not have anything with a camera or recording device. Thus, no phones. We all had to check our phones with the guards when we entered in the morning and could not retrieve them until we left in the afternoon. Not even during lunch breaks.

    However, a number of people had laptops with air cards and were able to do work during the down times (of which there weren’t many). We pretty much worked 9-5, five days a week.

    Enjoy it though. I found it a fascinating experience.

    • you cant even have an ipod shuffle these days

      • LOL, that’s old school! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve seen one of those in years. I think my older brother had one in the 2000s, but wow, I’m not sure where you’d get one these days except on e-bay or an antiques store.

        • I don’t know what you think an iPod shuffle is but they still sell them just about everywhere including the Apple website.


  • I’ve never been called for Grand jury, but I deeply object to the system in general as being a colossal waste of human resources and unnecessarily burdensome on the judicial system, so I would refuse to participate.

    I totally support, and have served on, regular jury trials.

  • No electronics allowed. No ipod, no kindle, no cell phones. Check them at the door and pick them up at the end. When I served some people just stopped bringing their phones because it takes 5-10 minutes at the end to retrieve them. I’d recommend some good reading material, playing cards, and crossword puzzles to keep you entertained.

    Good for you if you serve, but if it is going to create problems at work or home, definitely try to get out. The justice system will survive without you.

  • PDleftMtP

    This appears to be current for DC Superior Court grand juries (which meet at the US Attorney’s Office):

    Are cell phones permitted? How about a laptop computer or tablet?
    Cellphones – The US Attorney’s Office allows grand jurors to take cellphones into the lobby of its building (555 Fourth St, NW), but requires that the phones be stored at the front security desk for the duration of the day. Under limited circumstances, the US Attorney’s Office allows the use of cellphones at the front kiosk during the lunch hour in the lobby area or outside the building. Such use must be requested in advance and is subject to approval by security supervisors.

    Laptops and other electronic devices – The US Attorney’s office does NOT allow any electronic devices (other than cellphones) into its building. Such use must be requested in advance and is subject to approval by security supervisors. The Court has been told that – with permission of US Attorney security staff — laptop computers may be stored at the front kiosk and returned at the end of the day. This must be approved by security supervisors at the building in advance.
    Sep 30, 2011

    Federal grand juries are different (and can be much, much longer – 18 months). I think they meet at the US Courthouse, which does permit electronics (I was just on a petit jury there recently).

  • As an aside, if you send them a letter saying it’s an extreme financial hardship due to lost salary/wages, they’ll generally move you to Petit. I did it (honestly, my boss would not be paying me) and there was no questions asked. Thankfully, I wasn’t even put on a trial either. Give it a shot.

    • How long did it take you to hear back from them? I sent my letter in last week and I was wondering when I should follow up.

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