A Guide to California Jury Service
This Web site is designed for jurors, employers and the public to use to find
useful information about California's jury system. The links under the jury services division provide
links to specific information regarding jury service, frequently asked questions,
information for employers regarding employer obligations, detailed information
on the trial process, information on jury system improvements implemented by the
California judiciary, as well as a glossary containing definitions of all underlined
words contained in the text. This Web site is for you, and we hope that you find
it helpful. If you have comments or questions about Jury Service, contact us at
As a juror, you play an essential role in the American system of justice. You
do not need any special skills or legal knowledge to be a juror. You do need
to keep an open mind and be willing to make decisions free of personal feelings
and biases. As a juror, you will listen to opening statements and closing arguments
for both sides. You will also learn about and weigh the evidence that has been
collected for the trial. Then you will be asked to make a decision about the
case after you have talked it over with the other jurors during deliberations.
During the trial, the judge serves as the court's presiding officer and as the
final authority on the law. The lawyers act as advocates for their sides of
the case. As a juror, you are responsible for impartially evaluating the facts
presented and for applying the law to these facts as the judge instructs you.
These combined efforts bring about the fair and impartial administration of
justice in our state and nation.
Jury Service: Making a Difference
Why do we have a jury system?
The Constitution of the United States guarantees each U.S. citizen a right to
trial by jury in both criminal and civil matters. The jury must be present and
hear evidence, and it also must be impartial. Impartial means that the jurors
must not have already made up their minds about the outcome of the case. To
ensure that the jury is impartial, the lawyers for both sides of a case have
the opportunity to remove any jurors who appear to them to be biased. Juries
must also be representative. This means that the jurors must be from the same
community where the crime or injury occurred and the jury pool must reflect
the makeup of the larger community. The amendments quoted below are from your
United States Constitution. They discuss the right to a jury trial.
"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy
and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the
crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained
by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be
confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining
witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."
"In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty
dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by
a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than
according to the rules of the common law."
Jury service has not always been as universal a right as it is today. The social
movements that have shaped our country have also influenced the history of the
jury. With the end of slavery, African Americans were supposed to be able to
serve on juries. In fact, not many blacks served until the next major step forward
in our racial history: the civil rights movement. Likewise, women could not
serve on juries until after they won the right to vote in 1920 with the passage
of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Women were rarely seen on juries
until the women's movement in the 1960s applied pressure to an unrepresentative
system. Today, people with disabilities are claiming their rightful place in
the jury box and demanding the appropriate accommodations in order to participate
Jurors Enjoy Serving!
Over and over, jurors who have served tell us they enjoy being involved in making
an important civic decision. Often jury service is the most direct participation
the average citizen can have in the workings of government. Some jurors have
even decided to go back to school or change careers after their experiences
as jurors. In Democracy in America, Alexis de Toqueville, an important 19th
century French historian, had this to say about juries:
"I do not know whether a jury is useful to the litigants, but I am sure
it is very good for those who have to decide the case. I regard it as one of
the most effective means of popular education at society's disposal."
You are important to our jury system!
Without you, the jury system cannot work the way the authors of the Constitution
wanted. Yet jury service means rearranging schedules, canceling appointments,
and oftentimes missing work. But if you were on trial, wouldn't you want someone
like you to make the sacrifices necessary to be a part of your jury? Your public
service as a juror protects our right to have a trial by an impartial jury.