Be ready for jury duty and know what’s required

Thursday, April 21, 2022
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As many of you will notice, you have been receiving jury questionnaires from either Columbus City Court, Stillwater County Justice Court or Stillwater County District Court.

There are instructions included in each and we would ask that you read and follow the instructions and return the questionnaire to the correct court.

Under Montana State Law, Section 3-15-301, MCA, “it is the policy of this state that all qualified citizens have an obligation to serve on juries upon being summoned for jury duty, unless excused.” Juries may have six or 12 members, depending on the type of court case.

In Montana, there are several qualifications to be a juror:

•You must be 18 years of age.

•You must be a resident for at least 30 days in the city, town, or county where you are called to be a juror.

•You must be a citizen of the United States

•You cannot be a convicted felon whose civil rights have not been restored.

•You cannot be convicted of a felony, high crime, or malfeasance in office, and not had your civil rights restored.

In Montana, jurors are selected from a combined list of registered voters, licensed drivers, and Montana identification cards. For each court, a master jury list is created each year. You are required to serve on only one state panel per year beginning July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023.

You will receive a notice and questionnaire if you are on this year’s master jury panel. You must immediately send back the juror questionnaire. Please read and follow the directions on this notice – some courts require you to tell them when you are going to be out of town so that they will not pick you for a particular trial.

If you have a legitimate medical reason that will allow for permanent excusal from serving on a jury then you must complete the affidavit with an excuse from your physician. Under limited situations you can be temporarily excused. You must send the court the signed affidavit explaining one of the following:

•Serving on the jury will cause you undue hardship – and note the reason(s).

•You will be temporarily unavailable due to a previously scheduled commitment.

As a case is set for jury trial, a panel is selected from the master panel. Individual notices are sent out requiring you to appear on a particular day. Most courts require you to contact them to let them know you received the notice. When you report for jury duty, you will be assigned a particular case. The judge and the parties will ask you certain questions.

This process is called voir dire, which means “speak the truth.” The purpose of voir dire is to make sure that each individual juror meets the basic qualifications of a juror and will impartially hear the issues.

Sometimes the questions can seem very personal, but they are only intended to make sure that the parties have a fair trial. There are always more jurors called than will actually sit for a trial. An individual’s excusal from jury duty is based on a number of reasons or perhaps “no reason” at all.

If you report for jury duty and are not selected, you will be reimbursed $12. If you are selected for jury duty, you will be reimbursed $25 per day. You should also receive mileage for your travel from your house to court.