- Sections 62.102-62.105, 62.501, and 62.1031, G.C., provide qualifications for prospective jurors. A potential juror must:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- be a citizen of this state and county in which the person is to serve as a juror (In municipal court, they must also be a resident of the city.);
- be a qualified voter in the state and county, but does not have to be registered to vote;
- not have been convicted of misdemeanor theft or a felony;
- not be under indictment or other legal accusation for misdemeanor theft or felony;
- be of sound mind and good moral character;
- not be a witness in the case;
- not have served on the grand jury that issued the indictment (for felonies);
- not have served on the jury in a former trial of the same case;
- not have a bias or prejudice, either in favor of or against the defendant or the State;
- not have already formed an opinion or conclusion as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant which would influence the finding of a verdict in the case;
- be able to read and write;
- not have served as a petit juror for six days during the preceding three months in the county court or the preceding six months in the district court;
- not be interested, directly or indirectly, in the subject matter of the case; and
- not be related by consanguinity or affinity within the third degree to a party in the case (See Chapter 573, G.C.).
People who are hearing-impaired are still qualified to be prospective jurors. Sec. 62.1041, G.C. A hearing-impaired individual is defined to mean an individual who has a hearing impairment, regardless of whether the individual also has a speech impairment that inhibits the individual’s comprehension of proceedings or communication with others. Sec. 57.001(4), G.C. Courts are required to appoint a qualified interpreter for deaf or hearing-impaired jurors or to provide some type of auxiliary equipment to aid the jurors during trial proceedings should they be selected to serve.
Section 62.104, G.C., addresses the issue of whether a legally blind person is qualified to sit as a juror in a civil case. The statute defines legally blind as having not more than 20/200 of visual acuity in the better eye with correcting lenses; or visual acuity greater than 20/200, but with a limitation in the field of vision such that the widest diameter of the visual field subtends an angle no greater than 20 degrees. The statute does not disqualify a person who is legally blind to sit as a juror in a criminal case.
Section 62.106, G.C., provides for legal juror exemptions. The potential juror may claim an exemption if he or she:
is over 70 years of age;
- has legal custody of a child or children under the age of 15 years and the jury service would cause the child or children to be left without adequate supervision;
- is a student of a public or private secondary school;
- is enrolled in an institution of higher education;
- is an officer or employee of the Senate, the House of Representatives, or any department, commission, board, office, or other agency in the legislative branch of state government;
- is a primary caretaker of an invalid who is unable to care for himself/herself;
- is a member of the U.S. military forces serving on active duty and deployed to a location away from the person’s home station and out of the person’s county of residence;
- has served on a petit jury in the county in the last 24-month period preceding the currently scheduled day of service, unless the county uses a jury plan under Section 106.011, G.C., and the period authorized under Section 62.011(b)(6), G.C., exceeds two years (in a county with a population of at least 200,000); or
- has served as a petit juror (the ordinary jury for the trial of a civil or criminal action) in the county during the three-year period preceding the date the person is to appear for jury service (Only applies in a county with a population of at least 250,000 where the jury wheel has not been reconstituted after the date the person served as a petit juror. Sec. 62.001, G.C.).
A person who is at least 70 years of age may file for permanent exemption from jury duty. The court clerk shall promptly have a copy of the exemption delivered to the county tax assessor-collector. Secs. 62.107(c) and 62.108(a), (c) and (d), G.C. The county collector is required to maintain a current register of persons who claim and are entitled to a permanent exemption. The name of a person on the register may not be used in preparing the record of names from which a jury is selected.
Excuse of Juror for Religious Holy Day
If a prospective juror is required to appear at a court proceeding on a religious holy day observed by the prospective juror, the court or the court’s designee shall release the prospective juror from jury service entirely or until another day of the term.
The prospective juror must file an affidavit stating the grounds for the release and that the juror holds religious beliefs that prohibit him from taking part in a court proceeding on the day for which the release from jury duty is sought.
“Religious organization” is defined in Section 11.20, of the Tax Code.
Failure to Answer Summons and Provision False Information
Any person summoned who fails to attend or who fails to remain in attendance until discharged by the Court may be fined an amount not to exceed $100 for contempt (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 45.027). Additionally, a person shall be fined not less than $100 nor more than $500 if the person: (1) fails to attend court in obedience to this summons without reasonable excuse; or (2) files a false claim of exemption from jury service
(Government Code, Section 62.111; see also Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 35.01). Furthermore, a person who fails to comply with this summons, or who knowingly provides false information in a request for an exemption or to be excused from jury service, is subject to a contempt action punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000 (Government Code, Section 62.0141).
Establishing a Postponement
A prospective juror may establish an exemption without appearing in person by filing a signed statement of the grounds for the exemption with the clerk of the court at any time before the date of trial. Art. 35.04, C.C.P.
Section 62.0142, G.C., lets prospective jurors request a postponement of the initial appearance for jury service by contacting the clerk of the court in person, in writing, or by telephone before the date on which the person is summoned to appear. The clerk is required to grant the postponement if:
- the person has not been granted a postponement in that county during the one-year period preceding the date on which the person is summoned to appear; and
- the person and the clerk determine a substitute date on which the person will appear for jury service that is not later than six months after the date on which the person was originally summoned to appear.
The clerk may approve a subsequent request for postponement only for an extreme emergency that could not have been anticipated, such as death in the person’s family, sudden serious illness suffered by the person, or a natural disaster or national emergency in which the person is personally involved.
Establishing an Exemption
A person may establish an exemption from jury service, if qualified, without appearing in court by filing a signed statement of his or her exemption with the clerk of the court before the date on which he or she is summoned to appear. Sec. 62.107, G.C.
If from challenges, strikes, or legal exemptions, a sufficient number of jurors is not in attendance, the judge shall order the proper officer, usually a peace officer, to summon a sufficient number of qualified persons to form a new jury panel. Art. 45.028, C.C.P. This is commonly called a “pick-up jury.”
Proper Clothing Required
All persons entering the courtroom reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of the court proceedings.
Right to Reemployment
A private employer may not terminate the employment of a permanent employee because the employee serves as a juror. An employee whose employment is terminated in violation of this section is entitled to return to the same employment that the employee held when summoned for jury service if the employee, as soon as practical after release from jury service, gives the employer actual notice that the employee intends to return. (Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 122.001). Terminating an employee for performing jury duty is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine not to exceed $2,000. (Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 122.002).