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Frequently Asked Questions - Jury Service

Yes. The United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Your participation as a juror helps make that possible. You should be aware that Title 28, United States Code, Section 1866(g) provides, "Any person summoned for jury service who fails to appear as directed shall be ordered by the district court to appear forthwith and show cause for his/her failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to comply with the summons may be fined not more than $1000 or imprisoned not more than three days, ordered to perform community service, or any combination thereof."

Your name was randomly selected from county voter registration lists and licensed motor vehicle operator lists for the State of New York. Names are entered into a pool and you may be randomly summoned either as a grand or petit juror. You will be mailed a summons form with a date to report and a qualification questionnaire to complete and return within ten (10) days to the Court.

Jurors are summoned for a 90-day term of service. However, you will not be at the Court every day for this period. You may be required to appear only one to three times. If you are selected, you will serve for the duration of the trial and be excused for the remainder of the 90-day period. If you appear for jury service and are not selected, you will not have to return again until you are notified by mail with another notice to report for jury service.

Juror Qualification Questionnaires and Summonses are mailed to people randomly selected from the voter registration lists and licensed motor vehicle operator lists. The questionnaires are used to determine who is qualified to serve as a juror. You must complete the form either by completing the on-line eJuror questionnaire or filling out the paper questionnaire,  signing it and returning it in the envelope provided within ten (10) days. There is space on the reverse side of the paper form to provide additional information regarding hardships, etc. If you claim a medical hardship, a doctor’s note is to be included with the returned questionnaire or can be faxed from your doctor’s office to the Clerk’s Office (Rochester Fax number: 585-613-4035; Buffalo fax number 716-551-1705).

Jury Service in United States District Court for the Western District of New York is for a 90-Day-On-Call period. If you are selected as a juror on a case, you must serve until the conclusion of the case, even if it is longer than the time described above.

The U.S. District Court tries both criminal and civil cases. Civil cases include actions involving prisoner litigation, contract actions, discrimination, etc. Criminal cases include such things as prosecution for immigration violations, drug activity, tax fraud, bank robbery, mail fraud, etc.

 

A petit jury is a trial jury for both civil and criminal cases. The petit jury listens to the evidence offered during a trial and returns a verdict. A verdict in a civil case may be a finding for the plaintiff or for the defendant. A verdict in a criminal case finds the defendant guilty or not guilty.

Trial Jury Service (non-grand jury service) in United States District Court for the Western District of New York is for a 90-Day-On-Call period. If you are selected as a trial juror on a case, you must serve until the conclusion of the case, even if it is longer than the time described above.

A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence, but whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime was committed. The evidence is normally presented only by an attorney for the government. The grand jury must determine from this evidence whether a person should have formal charges filed by the government. If the grand jury finds probable cause, then it will return a written statement of the charges called an indictment.

If you are selected to serve on a Grand Jury, you are empanelled for a term of 18 months.  That period of time may be extended for an additional 6 months.

The Court’s schedule sometimes changes at the last minute. Rather than have you sit in the jury room all day, we may change your day to report. It is, therefore, important to call the telephone number printed on your summons or notice on the evening or weekend before the summons date. You will hear a recorded message giving detailed reporting instructions.

After you complete your term of service, it is unlikely that you will be called again for a period of two (2) years.

 

You need to make a request to defer your jury service in writing using the back of the jury qualification questionnaire. Please give the reason why you need to be deferred and when would be a better time for your to serve as a juror within a 6-month period. The questionnaire still needs to be completed and returned to the Court.

If you are asking to be permanently excused from jury service, you are still required to complete the questionnaire. If you claim a medical hardship, a doctor’s note is to be included with the returned questionnaire or a doctor’s office can fax his or her note to the Clerk’s Office (Rochester Fax number: 585-613-4035; Buffalo fax number 716-551-1705).

All legal grounds for requesting excuse may be found on Question #14 on the enclosed Jury Qualification Questionnaire. Please read through the 4 listed excuse categories and fill in the circle that applies to your excuse. Some categories do require further information and must be explained in the Remarks column on the reverse side of the questionnaire. If you feel you will incur a hardship or conflict by serving as a juror, please write on the reverse side of your juror questionnaire your request to be excused prior to reporting. Please indicate any scheduled vacations, business trips, or any days you will be unavailable to serve on jury duty by circling the dates on the calendar on the reverse side of the jury questionnaire.  If you are a student currently attending school and need to be adjourned, please indicate so on the reverse side of the questionnaire. No excusals or adjournments can be granted over the telephone.   If you fill out your questionnaire on-line and need to request a postponement or inform us of any dates you are unable to serve, please use the "Contact Us" button on the eJuror page.

If you have served in another court within the last two years (Quest. #14, category #2) and provide proof of service, you may request an excuse (prior to reporting to jury service). The eight year excuse period observed by NY State does not apply in U.S. District Court.

You will not be notified by mail of the court’s decision regarding your request. Requests to be excused or postponed are not automatically granted. It is your responsibility to verify that your request to be excused or postponed has been granted. Please call the toll-free automated jury information system at 1-866-851-8154 for up-to-date information on your request 5 days prior to your reporting date. (Filling out your questionnaire on-line will decrease the amount of time needed to confirm your request to be excused.) You will be requested to enter your nine-digit participant number (located on the upper left hand side next to your name on the front of this form) and follow the audio prompt

If you have moved out of the Western New York area, please make the change to your address as instructed, complete the questionnaire and return it in the postage-paid envelope provided.

 

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If you have served as a GRAND or PETIT juror in the United States District Court within the past two (2) years, you may request to be excused from serving as a juror. Please note the name of the court and the dates that you have served on the back of the jury qualification questionnaire under the "Remarks" area.

Students are required to complete the questionnaire and return it to the Court. Students are to explain that they are a full-time student and indicate to the Court where they attend college. If the questionnaire is mailed to their home address, a parent or guardian is asked to forward the jury service packet to the student for them to complete and return.

You are responsible for providing your own transportation to the courthouse. If you cannot drive yourself, you should arrange to take a bus or have someone drive you. The Court will reimburse your bus fare to and from the courthouse.

Printed on the reverse side of the Jury Qualification Questionnaire form, at the bottom of the page, are months of the calendar encompassing your 90 day-on-call period. Please circle the dates you are unable to report for jury service. The Court will enter these dates into your Participant Record and will not call you in during those times. Once the form is returned and you become aware of other dates on which you cannot perform jury service, you are asked to inform the Jury Office by calling: 716-551-1721 (Buffalo) or 585-613-4017 (Rochester) or emailing at:  bufejuradm@nywd.uscourts.gov (Buffalo) or rocejuradm@nywd.uscourts.gov (Rochester).

If you are completing your qualification questionnaire on-line, please complete the form.  Once you press the "Confirm" button, on the left hand side of the screen there will be a "Contact Us" button.  Click on this button and send the Court an email with the dates you are not able to serve

You have been randomly selected for jury service for the United States District Court for the Western District of New York (Federal Court) and we have jurisdiction in 17 counties as described on the Home page.

No. There is no transfer of jury service. Each Court (town, county, state and federal) have their own jury system. You must comply with the Court that summoned you.

The United States District Court for the Western District of New York will pay you, by check, an attendance fee of $40.00 per day, round-trip mileage if using your own car, tolls round trip and daily parking. If traveling by public transportation you will be reimbursed for that fare. You do not need to submit receipts. Please follow the directions for parking listed in your reporting instructions. You may park in any of the surrounding commercial parking lots. The Court will reimburse you for your parking expenses, not on the day you report, but when you receive your check for attendance. You should bring enough money with you to pay for parking. Federal employees do not receive the $40.00 attendance fee but do receive travel expenses. Jury fees are paid within a four to six week period.

Jurors who earn over $600 in attendance income in one calendar year will receive a 1099 form.

Select the link for travel directions to the Buffalo or Rochester courthouses that can be found on the Welcome to Jury Service page.

The counties that make up the Western District of New York are divided into the following office locations:

Buffalo

  • Allegany
  • Cattaraugus
  • Chautauqua
  • Erie
  • Genesee
  • Niagara
  • Orleans
  • Wyoming

Rochester

  • Chemung
  • Livingston
  • Monroe
  • Ontario
  • Schuyler
  • Seneca
  • Steuben
  • Wayne
  • Yates

 

Certificates of service will be provided for any day you report for jury service.  Please let the Jury Attendant know you require a Certificate of Service when you report for jury service.

You may also print your own Certificate of Service by logging into your eJuror Participant Record. 

It is extremely important that you be prompt both in the morning and when returning from lunch. It is particularly important when you are selected to serve on a trial since the entire proceeding can be delayed because of the tardiness of one juror, and you could be held in contempt. If you are delayed due to circumstances beyond your control, call the appropriate jury office to inform the court of your situation.

To reach the jury office in Buffalo, dial 716-551-1721. If your call is not answered, please leave a voice mail message.

To reach the jury office in Rochester, dial 585-613-4017. If you call is not answered, please leave a voice mail message.

Typically, jury selection depends on the type of trial that you are being selected for. You can plan on being at the courthouse for the morning and possibly the afternoon. Short recesses are taken throughout the selection day and the Court does break for lunch. The Court does not provide lunch. You can bring your lunch or eat at a nearby restaurant. There is a cafeteria located in the Rochester courthouse only.

Laptop computers, electronic devices and  cell phones are not allowed in the courtroom -- please do not bring them into the courthouse.  If they are brought to the courthouse, they will be checked at the door and you will be requested to leave these items with Security until you are released for the day.  Public phones are available throughout the Rochester Courthouse only.

Be sure to bring photo ID and your jury summons with you when you report for jury service. Since there can be extended periods of time when you will not be needed in the courtroom, you may want to bring a book or magazine.

While no formal dress code exists, jurors are requested to dress in a manner respectful to the Court. Shorts, T-shirts, and thong sandals are not considered appropriate attire. Please bring a sweater or jacket since the courtrooms are often quite cool.

You will have to pass through a metal detector each time you enter the courthouse so it is advised you leave excess metal and jewelry at home to speed your entry.

No liquids if any kind (water, coffee, soda, milk, juice, etc.) in any type of container (glass, paper, plastic or metal) may be brought into the courthouse.  However, if medically required, liquid medicines are allowed.

Laptop computers and cell phones are not allowed in the courtroom - please do not bring them into the courthouse. If they are brought to the courthouse, they will be checked at the door and you will be requested to leave these items with Security until you are released for the day. Public phones are available throughout the Rochester Courthouse only.

 

To learn more about how a jury is selected and what to expect during a trial, go to the Link, "Handbook for Trial Jurors" or "Understanding The Federal Courts" located on the Welcome page.



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