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The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

Will I have to Serve on Jury Duty? Well, Obama Didn't.

Adam Banner - Tuesday, November 14, 2017

News broke late last week that Barack Obama was called in for jury duty. He was dismissed, but the situation brings up questions for those who don't have the same clout as a former President of the United States.

Evidently, he was quite the hit, as he signed books and greeted his fellow potential Cook County jurors. He was released from jury service around lunch along with about half of the other potential jurors subsequent to a "random" draw.

This is not the first time that a former president has been called for, and showed up to, jury duty. Former president George W. Bush honored his jury summons in Dallas, Texas back in 2015. Bill Clinton also complied when called to serve for New York in 2003. Neither one of those former presidents made it onto an actual jury either.

As a trial attorney, people often share their jury duty stories with me. I love to hear them, and I love the insight they allow me. Part of the reason is that it gives me more to think about when questioning potential jurors in my trials; the other reason is simply because I will likely never get to serve on a jury. 

In Oklahoma, a practicing attorney cannot sit on a jury. Moreover, even after I retire and put my license on inactive status I still probably won't get the opportunity to serve on a jury. I find it hard to believe that any attorney, whether litigating a criminal trial or a civil trial, would want a former trial attorney critiquing the case. There is simply too much risk that a person with that kind of insight into the system might unfairly disturb the balance necessary to achieve a truly unanimous verdict. Oh well. Such is life.

So, what are the qualifications for sitting on a jury in Oklahoma? If you are a U.S. citizen over the age of 18, and if you live in the county in which you are summoned to serve, you are technically qualified. There may be reasons why you are not good jury duty candidate for a specific type of case, but that is completely dependent on your specific situation and background.

The easier question is, "Who is not qualified to set on a jury in Oklahoma?" Here is a list of those who cannot serve on jury duty:

  • Anyone who works in law enforcement, either state of federal, and has custody at any time of prisoners can only sit on a civil jury;
  • Sheriffs and deputy sheriffs;
  • District Court Judges;
  • Judges serving on the Court of Criminal Appeals or the Court of Civil Appeals; 
  • Justices of the Oklahoma Supreme Court;
  • Legislators during session or while involved in state business;
  • Licensed attorneys currently engaged in the practice of law; and
  • Anyone who has been convicted of a felony or who has served a term of imprisonment in any state or federal penitentiary unless granted a pardon.

There are also a few other exceptions to those normally required to serve jury duty. People over the age of 70 can request release from their jury summons. Also, citizens who can show that jury duty would present a substantial hardship may be released from jury duty at the discretion of the court.

Regardless of your situation though, don't shy away from jury duty. I know it takes folks away from their families and jobs, but the task and responsibility is incredibly important to our judicial system. Juries are the final gate keepers to justice, afterall.

 






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