U.S. District Court Jury Duty
Due to the recent seating debacle at Cowboys Stadium for Super Bowl XLV, several hundred fans have filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys and owner, Jerry Jones. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas, Texas. I do not know the details of the lawsuit itself, but I can tell prospective jurors what to expect if summoned to the U.S. District Court building in Dallas. Each U.S. District Court has its own security rules. I was called for jury duty at the U.S. District Court building in downtown Dallas last month. The rules and procedures I will describe are for the U.S. District Court in Dallas.
Before I was actually summoned to appear as a potential juror, I received a pre-qualifying questionnaire by mail. The questions on this questionnaire included the basic name, address, phone number as well as U.S. citizenship status, employment status, and the ability to understand the English language.
Based on my answers to the questionnaire, which had to be completed and returned to the courthouse within a period of 10 business days, I was eligible to be called as a potential juror. The questionnaire could also be completed online.
When I received my jury summons, I was required to complete a short questionnaire at the bottom on the jury summons and return it within a few days of receipt. This questionnaire had to be completed and returned to the courthouse. The questionnaire asked for distance in miles (one way) from my home to the courthouse.
My jury summons was “on call” status. I was required to either call a phone number or go online after 3 p.m. central time for further instructions. My “on call” status was for a two week period. If I was required to appear, my jury service would terminate at the conclusion of the jury selection if I was not selected to serve on a jury or the conclusion of the trial if I was selected to serve on a jury.
On my first day of “on call” service, I was required to appear on Tuesday, January 18 which was the day after the observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was scheduled to appear in the Central Jury Room of the Earl Cabell Federal Building in downtown Dallas at noon.
As with all Federal buildings, purses and other bags are placed on a conveyor belt and sent through a scanning device. The individual places pocket items in a tray before walking through a metal detector. Shoes are not required to be removed unless the individual sets off the metal detector.
The Central Jury Room is located at the end of a corridor to the immediate right of the entrance metal detectors. I entered the Central Jury Room and handed my jury summons and photo ID to the clerk. She types some information into a computer. She asks me if I paid to park. When I answered yes, she hands me a parking reimbursement form to complete upon completion of my jury service.
I deduced that jurors are summoned in “shifts”. The Central Jury Room is smaller than that of the Dallas County Courthouse. Food and drinks are allowed in the Central Jury Room but must be discarded before entering the courtroom. Cell phones and other electronic devices were allowed inside the building itself, however, these items are not allowed inside the courtroom.
The reason for the mileage was revealed when I appeared in the Central Jury Room. In addition to the $40.00 a day for jury service payment, parking fees up to $18.00 a day were reimbursed, with appropriate receipt from the parking lot attendant, and mileage was paid at $0.51 a mile (round trip) from home to the courthouse. I paid $10.00 to park which was less than the maximum amount allowed.
A short video was shown and rubber bands were issued to those with cell phones. The group of potential jurors is lined up in order listed on the jury list which is given to both attorneys and the judge. Jurors are escorted from the Central Jury Room to the courtroom in groups of 12.
Upon exiting the elevator, there is a second metal detector and scanning device. Again, shoes are not required for removal unless the metal detector sounds. Photo IDs are attached to cell phones and other small electronic devices using the rubber band issued earlier and confiscated by the security guard operating the metal detector and scanning device. These items are not returned until the juror leaves. If a juror needs to make a phone call, he or she must use a pay phone.
The attorneys give a few details of the case and interview the potential jurors until the group of about 30 or 40 is narrowed to 12 jurors.
Since I was not selected for a jury, my jury service had ended that day. The judge decided to keep us there after 5 p.m. central time in an effort to seat the jury in one day. I left the courthouse at 6 p.m. central time which was too late to turn in my parking reimbursement form to the jury accounting office. I was able to mail my reimbursement form which added the parking fee to my check for my jury service.
© 2011 Tammy L