Jury Service - A Duty and a Privilege
Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. Our system of justice does not work without citizens who are willing to act as jurors. The Judge and the jury must each fulfill their individual role for the justice system to work. The Judge determines the law to be applied in the case while the jury decides the facts. Thus, in a very important way, jurors become a part of the Court itself.
Any inconvenience and financial sacrifice that might be made to render public service as a juror are greatly appreciated by the Judges, the lawyers and your fellow citizens. It is a strong act of citizenship akin to serving in the military and voting.
The reward for a juror's service lies in the awareness that he or she has performed a high duty of citizenship, and in the realization that he or she has aided in the maintenance of law, order, and in the administration of justice among his or her fellow citizens.
Efficient jurors are men and women of sound judgment, absolute honesty, and a sense of fairness. The juror aids in the maintenance of law and order and upholds justice among the citizenry. His or her greatest reward is the knowledge that he or she has discharged the duty faithfully, honorably, and well. In addition to determining and adjusting property rights, jurors may also be asked to decide whether a person is or is not guilty of a crime. In a very real sense, we rely upon jurors for the protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Any juror should realize a quiet sense of importance and pride from his or her service. He or she should decide the facts and apply the law impartially, treat alike the rich and the poor, men and women, corporations and individuals. He or she should render justice without any regard to race, color, or creed.
What if I forgot to complete and/or return my questionnaire?
If you forgot to complete and/or return your questionnaire and it is the weekend before your jury duty reporting date, simply complete each of the questions and bring the form with you when you report for jury duty. If, however, you discover that you have not completed and/or returned your questionnaire at any other time, please call Court Administration, 717-228-4440 (Mon-Fri. 8:30 A.M. - 4:30 P.M.).
What do I do if it SNOWS?
If there is severely inclement weather, jurors should listen to WLBR (1270 AM), WGAL Channel 8, and WHTM Channel 27 for information about any delays or closings. WGAL and WHTM have web sites (www.wgal.com; www.abc27.com), with weather closing lists. It should be noted that jurors are to report unless the building is CLOSED or if the opening of the building is DELAYED by the weather. The radio/television stations and web sites should provide information for Lebanon County employees. Jurors should listen for and follow any instructions provided for employees. If special instructions are provided for jurors, then, of course, jurors should abide by those instructions.
How was my name chosen for jury duty?
The process of selecting jurors begins when a computer randomly chooses names from the per capita tax rolls. In addition, the per capita list is supplemented and merged with a list provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. If a person's name is chosen then a questionnaire is sent which includes questions that allow for a determination if the person may be qualified for jury duty.
Types of Cases
Generally, there are two Courts in Lebanon County in which jurors serve. One is the Common Pleas Court - Criminal, in which persons are charged with crimes, and the other is Common Pleas Court - Civil, in which parties come to court to have their disputes resolved that generally involve one party seeking monetary damages against another party.
Length of Jury Service
Lebanon County has adopted a system where all summoned jurors appear for jury selection which begins (and typically ends) on the first day of jury service. Jurors are generally asked to report at 8:15 a.m. and the typical day will conclude at approximately 4:30 p.m. If you are not selected to serve on a jury, your jury service ends at the conclusion of the selection of all juries. If you are selected, you will serve for the duration of the trial. Most (NOT ALL) trials last a single day. A few more trials will last two days. In all, in excess of 90% of trials last two or fewer days. The best information as to the approximate length of the trial will be provided by the Judge and attorneys during jury selection.
Frequency of Jury Service
The law allows persons who have served as a juror a one (1) year exemption. If you are selected and serve on a jury for three (3) days or more, you may be excused for a period of three (3) years from date of service.
Compensation for Jury Duty
Jurors receive $9.00 a day for the first three days of service. Beginning on the fourth day, the rate increases to $25.00 per day. These rates are set by the legislature (not the Court). Jurors who live outside the City of Lebanon also receive (specially approved by the President Judge and the County Commissioners) mileage of 31 cents per mile for each day of service (one round trip per day).
There is no legal requirement that employers must pay you while you are on jury service. Please ask your employer what the company policy is with regard to compensation for jury service. Some employers ask that you supply proof as to the length of your jury service. Court Administration will provide you with a jury service form which verifies your service as a juror at the conclusion of all trials in which you act as a juror.
Exemption from Jury Duty
Pennsylvania law allows for exemption from jury duty for: 1) persons who cannot read, write and understand the English language; 2) persons engaged in active military service; 3) persons convicted of a crime that allows for punishment of a one year or greater sentence; 4) persons who demonstrate undue hardship or extreme inconvenience; 5) persons who are not citizens of the United States; 6) persons who are not a resident of Lebanon County. There is no exemption for age. We are pleased to have the benefit of each citizen's wisdom and experience.
Courtroom Accessibility to the Physically Challenged
If you have a hearing, sight or mobility concern, please advise the Court Administration Office prior to your service.
Business or casual business attire is appropriate in the courtroom. Jurors may not wear shorts, t-shirts or halter tops.
Directions for Parking and Entering the Municipal Building (Courthouse)
Parking for jury duty is provided in any of the Municipal Building parking lots. The largest lot is located to the rear of the Municipal Building (this lot is bordered by Oak Street, South 7th Street, and Elm Street). Also, three other lots are available at the following locations: 1) toward the rear of the building bordered by Oak Street, and South 7th Street - this lot is on the opposite side of Oak Street from the "main" lot described above; 2) on South 8th Street (located next to the Synagogue) 3) approximately 100 yards EAST of the corner of Oak and South 7th Street is a smaller lot with approximately twelve parking spaces. Also, LIMITED on street parking is available on most days. Please DO NOT use on street parking for South 8th Street in front of the Municipal Building as it is restricted to one hour. Please be aware, if using on street parking, of any parking restrictions that are in place.
Upon entering the Municipal Building (Courthouse), jurors may proceed to the elevators or stairs. Take the elevator or stairs to the third floor. If using the elevator, turn left and proceed past the jury service barrier where you will be greeted and initially checked in for jury duty in Room 306. If you are using the stairs, upon reaching the third floor, proceed to the public elevators and follow the same instructions noted above. Click Here to see a Parking Map.
First Day of Jury Service
Jurors report for jury service no later than 8:15 A.M. the first day. The typical day will conclude at 4:30 P.M. Please allow for a few extra minutes for parking and security as you enter the Lebanon Municipal Building (Courthouse). The typical day of jury service during a trial will begin at 8:15 A.M. Occasionally scheduling changes occur and jurors may not be required to report for jury duty. Jurors who are selected for trial are asked to either check the Lebanon County website's Jury Trial List page OR call (717) 272-0820 after 5:00 P.M. each night to listen to a recorded message with reporting instructions.
All jurors are required to go through a metal detector. In order to ease this process, jurors should NOT bring the following items: weapons of any type, including firearms, chemical sprays such as "mace" or pepper spray, pocket knives, knitting/sewing needles, and scissors. Jurors should also not bring newspapers nor any recording devices. Cellular phones, pagers and other communication devices should not be brought in the building during jury service. Please leave all such devices in your car or at home. Jurors may bring laptop/notebook computers, books or suitable magazines, but such items are not permitted in the courtrooms.
There is typically one 15 minute mid-morning, and one 15 minute mid-afternoon break. Also, the Judge will typically break for lunch at approximately 12:00 noon for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. There are several nearby restaurants that the jury attendants will be glad to point out to you.
Juror orientation generally takes place in Room 306 (see Directions for Parking and Entering the Municipal Building (Courthouse). Jury attendants and Court Administration staff will take juror names, distribute copies of juror questionnaires, provide a "juror" sticker to be prominently placed by the juror on his or her clothing, and distribute a three page Jury Information and Questionnaire form. After all jurors are checked in, instructions will be provided (via an informal instruction and question and answer format lasting approximately 30-45 minutes). The focus of the discussion will be the materials mailed to jurors explaining jury service. Orientation is concluded after members of the District Court Administration Office finish answering any questions raised by the jurors.
A jury is rarely sequestered, that is kept separate from the public for the duration of a trial. This action is taken when the Judge deems it is necessary because of the nature of the trial. If sequestered, the jurors will have the opportunity to communicate with their families through court personnel; and arrangements will be made to have their clothing and personal items delivered to them.
Persons in the Courtroom
A number of people are in the courtroom that play a part in the proceeding.
The JUDGE presides from the elevated bench. Just as you have been chosen to decide the facts, he or she is the person who was elected by the citizens of Lebanon County to decide the law. He or she conducts the trial, makes legal decisions and explains the law to you.
A DEPUTY PROTHONOTARY or DEPUTY CLERK OF COURT sits at a desk near the Judge and handles the papers and exhibits for the Court, calls out the names when a jury is impaneled (chosen to try a case) and administers the oath to witnesses.
The LAWYERS represent the people whose cases you will have to decide. In each case, each of them will make opening and closing speeches to you, examine and cross-examine witnesses and, when necessary, request a decision from the Judge on interpretations of the law.
The OFFICIAL COURT REPORTER sits beside the witness stand recording the testimony of the witnesses.
The PLAINTIFF is the party who brings a civil lawsuit. There may be several plaintiffs in the same suit. The plaintiff and his or her lawyer sit at the table nearest the jury. In a criminal case the PROSECUTOR, the party who brings the charge, frequently a police officer, and a DISTRICT ATTORNEY, the lawyer for the prosecution, sit at the table nearer the jury.
The DEFENDANT or DEFENDANTS are the parties being sued or, in a criminal case, the person charged with a crime.
The COURT ATTENDANTS or TIPSTAFFS are positioned in the front and rear of the Courtroom and are available to assist the Judge and the Jurors.
The remaining persons in the courtroom may be witnesses waiting to be heard in a case, litigants, or spectators. Under our legal system, the Courts are open to the public so that citizens may see the justice system.
The Voir Dire Examination
When the parties and their lawyers are in the Courtroom, a panel of jurors is called by randomly drawing names. From this group of jurors, twelve will be selected to try the case. Also, at least two alternate jurors, in addition to the twelve, will be chosen. Should any juror(s) become ill during the trial an alternate juror will be asked to join the remaining eleven jurors in deciding the case. During voir dire jurors are questioned about their qualifications to sit as jurors in the case. This questioning is conducted by the Judge and the Lawyers. Of course, because the answers provided by jurors are made while under oath, it is important to be candid and truthful.
The voir dire examination opens with a short statement about the case. The purpose is to inform the jurors of what the case is about and to identify the parties and their lawyers. Questions are then asked to find out whether anyone on the panel has any personal interest in the case or knows of any reason why he or she cannot be a fair and impartial juror. The Court also wants to know whether any member of the panel is related or personally acquainted with the parties. Other questions will determine whether any panel member has a prejudice or feeling that might influence him or her.
If you have a problem hearing or remembering the testimony of witnesses, or if you have trouble seeing the participants on the witness stand from the jury box, you should point this out to the trial attorneys and/or the Judge to determine whether you should be excused.
Parties on either side may ask that a member of the panel be excused. These requests, or demands, are called challenges. A juror must not take offense if they are excused. It is not a reflection upon his or her intelligence, ability or integrity.
The Trial Sequence
The following stages of a trial usually occur in jury cases (The Judge will give detailed instructions which must be followed by each juror. The information supplied is only a guide. Jurors are bound to follow only the instructions of the Court as supplied by the trial Judge):
- Selection of a jury and juror's oath.
- The opening statements of the lawyers. Sometimes the opening statements are omitted.
- In a criminal case, the Commonwealth (District Attorney) or the plaintiff (civil case) calls witnesses and presents evidence to attempt to support his or her case.
- The defendant may call witnesses and produce evidence.
- Arguments may be made by the lawyers for each side.
- The Judge will instruct the jury in each separate case as to the law of the case. Jurors must follow these instructions of law given to them by the Judge in each particular case.
- The jury then retires to the jury deliberation room to arrive at a verdict.