Juries: Achieving a Fair Cross Section of the Community

Juror Appreciation Week is observed in the month of May. Jury service is among the nation’s most important civic duties, and the people who serve on juries certainly deserve appreciation for their service to our country.

The founders feared governmental tyranny, so they built juries into our legal system. They believed certain functions were simply too important to be left to government officials acting alone. For this reason, prosecutors do not have the power to bring indictments requiring those under investigation to stand trial for felony criminal offenses; rather, only ordinary citizens called together into grand juries can bring indictments. Likewise, it is not judges, but ordinary citizens called together into trial juries, who decide guilt or innocence in criminal trials or liability and damages in civil trials where there are disputes about the facts.

Most of us have some idea what jurors do after they arrive in a courthouse. But what is the process to get there? And who among us is legally qualified to serve?