Juror Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a petit jury?
A petit jury, also known as a trial jury, hears evidence during a civil or criminal trial and returns a verdict. It is generally composed of 6 to 12 citizens.
2. What is a grand jury?
A grand jury decides whether probable cause exists that a crime was committed, not whether a particular party is guilty or innocent. It is generally composed of 23 citizens.
3. What is the length of service for a juror?
Petit jurors are on call for approximately one month, but they will probably not be needed every day during that month.
Grand jurors serve for 18 months, convening one time each month.
4. What does "on call" mean?
"On call" means that prospective jurors will not be asked to report to the courthouse unless their names are randomly selected to serve on a jury. But jurors are expected to be available throughout the term of their service and to report when the court calls them.
5. Why is jury service required?
The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to a jury trial in certain cases. The jury must represent a cross-section of the community in order to prevent discrimination. For this reason, citizens will only be excused from serving on a jury for a few reasons.
6. How are citizens selected for service?
A computer randomly selects potential jurors based on the Nebraska driver's license, state identification card holders, and voter registration lists. Due to the random computerized selection process, some citizens' names may be selected several times, while other citizens' names may never be selected.
7. How do you determine where jurors will serve?
Grand jurors from throughout Nebraska report to the federal courthouse in Omaha. Petit jurors report to the federal courthouse in Omaha, Lincoln, or North Platte, depending on their county of permanent residence.
Jurors who reside in the following counties serve in Omaha:
Antelope Cuming Holt Sarpy Boone Dakota Knox Stanton Boyd Dixon Madison Thurston Burt Dodge Nance Washington Cedar Douglas Pierce Wayne Colfax Greeley Platte Wheeler
Jurors who reside in the following counties serve in Lincoln:
Adams Hamilton Merrick Richardson Butler Harlan Nemaha Saline Cass Howard Nuckolls Saunders Clay Jefferson Otoe Seward Fillmore Johnson Pawnee Thayer Franklin Kearney Phelps Webster Gage Lancaster Polk York Hall
Jurors who reside in the following counties serve in North Platte:
Arthur Dawes Hayes Morrill Banner Dawson Hitchcock Perkins Blaine Deuel Hooker Red Willow Box Butte Dundy Keith Rock Brown Frontier Keya Paha Scotts Bluff Buffalo Furnas Kimball Sheridan Chase Garden Lincoln Sherman Cherry Garfield Logan Sioux Cheyenne Gosper Loup Thomas Custer Grant McPherson Valley
8. Am I qualified to serve as a juror?
Every person is qualified unless he or she:
- Is not a citizen of the U.S.;
- Is under 18 years old;
- Has not lived in Nebraska for one year;
- Cannot read, write, and understand the English language well enough to fill out the juror qualification questionnaire;
- Cannot speak English;
- Is mentally or physically unable to serve on a jury; or
- Has pending felony charges or has been convicted of a felony and civil rights have not been restored.
9. What if I have a disability or need special accommodations?
The court will make every effort to accommodate jurors with disabilities or special needs. Please include your needs on the juror qualification questionnaire or notify the court in writing by e-mail, fax, or U.S. Mail. Be sure to include your telephone number because the jury clerk may need to discuss accommodations with you. You may request to be excused if you are disabled and jury service would be an undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.
10. Can my employer fire me for serving as a juror?
Federal statute 28 U.S.C. § 1875 states that, "[n]o employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee's jury service, or the attendance or scheduled attendance in connection with such service, in any court of the United States." An employer who violates the law may be subject to criminal and civil penalties. But this job protection does not include the loss of vacation time or other employment-related benefits. In addition, there is no federal statute requiring your employer to continue to pay you while you serve as a juror.
11. Will I be asked to provide sensitive information over the telephone?
A jury clerk will not ask you to provide sensitive information like social security numbers or credit card numbers over the telephone. Most federal court contact with prospective jurors will be through U.S. mail.
12. What factors or life circumstances may exempt or excuse me from jury service?
The following prospective jurors are exempt from jury service. This means they will not need to serve on a jury.
- Members in active service in the Armed Forces of the United States;
- Members of the fire or police departments of any state, district, territory, possession, or subdivision; and
- Public officers in the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of any federal, state, or local government who are actively engaged in the performance of official duties. A public officer is either elected to public office or directly appointed by a person elected to public office.
The following prospective jurors may request to be excused from jury service. The court may or may not grant the excuse, or may require the juror to report during a different month.
- Persons over 70 years of age;
- Persons who served as a grand or petit juror in any court within two years of being summoned to serve in federal court;
- Volunteer safety personnel, such as volunteer firefighters or members of a rescue squad or ambulance crew;
- Persons caring for children under ten years of age if the children's health or safety could be harmed by care giver's absence for jury service;
- Persons who are caring for elderly or ill individuals; or
- Persons for whom jury service is a temporary hardship or extreme inconvenience.
13. May I be excused if I am a full-time or part-time student?
You may be excused if jury duty will cause you undue hardship or extreme inconvenience. Explain in detail why you are requesting to be excused on your juror qualification questionnaire. If you have already submitted your questionnaire, your request must be made in writing and submitted either by accessing eJuror online or by e-mail, fax, or U.S. Mail. The court will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.
14. Can my jury service be postponed to another month?
If serving during the month you are called would cause you undue hardship or extreme inconvenience, you can request to serve during a different month. Explain the reasons for your request on the juror qualification questionnaire. If you have already submitted your questionnaire, your request must be made in writing and submitted either by accessing eJuror online or by e-mail, fax, or U.S. Mail. The court will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.
15. May I be excused for a portion of the jury term because I have prior plans?
The court will try to honor a juror's request for a partial excuse for a doctor's appointment, scheduled vacation plans, or business obligations. Explain the reason for your request on your juror qualification questionnaire, giving the date(s) you need to be gone. If you have already submitted your questionnaire, your request must be made in writing and submitted either by accessing eJuror online or by e-mail, fax, or U.S. Mail. The court will consider each request on a case-by-case basis.
16. Am I required to complete and return the juror qualification questionnaire?
Yes, the law requires you to return the questionnaire either electronically [eJuror] or by U.S. Mail. You can be punished if you do not return it. Please call the jury clerk if you lose your summons or questionnaire so the court can mail a new one to you.
17. What if my address changed?
Indicate your new permanent address on the juror qualification questionnaire. If your new place of residence is still in Nebraska, the court will notify you in writing if your service changes to another division of the U.S. District Court for Nebraska. If your new residence is outside the state of Nebraska, you no longer qualify to be a juror in federal court in Nebraska.
18. Why do you need my telephone number?
The court may contact you with advance notice of upcoming trials or last minute changes.
19. What if I am a caretaker for a disabled person who receives a questionnaire or I receive a questionnaire for a relative who is now deceased?
Submit the juror qualification questionnaire on that person's behalf. In the designated area, indicate 1) the nature of the person's disability or the date of his or her death, and 2) your name and relationship to the individual.
20. What should I do if I lose my juror qualification questionnaire?
Please call or e-mail the jury clerk as soon as possible. A paper questionnaire will be mailed to you if you are unable to complete it online using eJuror.
21. How will I know when to report?
You will receive a summons giving the first day of your reporting term. The summons will tell you to begin calling the toll-free automated jury message system after 3:00 p.m. Central Time on the Friday before your reporting date, and each Friday throughout your service, or as instructed. When you call the automated jury message system at 1-866-534-5317, it will ask you to enter your 9-digit participant number shown on your summons. The message system will tell you whether or not you are scheduled to report for jury service. If you are not scheduled to report, the message will tell you when to call again.
22. Will I receive advance notice to report?
Yes, you will receive calls from the court's automated jury message system or a letter from the court giving you advance notice of upcoming trials.
23. Why must I call the evening before I appear for jury duty?
The court's schedule occasionally changes at the last minute. For this reason, you must call the automated jury message system the evening before you are to report to the courthouse. The message may tell you to report or tell you that your appearance is not necessary. If you report to the courthouse when you have been told not to report, you will not be paid or given credit for that day's attendance.
24. Where do I report?
First Floor, Jury Assembly Room
Roman L. Hruska U. S. Courthouse (west entrance)
111 South 18th Plaza
Fifth Floor, Jury Assembly Room
Robert V. Denney Federal Building
100 Centennial Mall North (16th & 'O' Streets)
Third Floor, District Court
301 North Jeffers Street
North Platte, Nebraska
25. Where do I park?
26. May I stay overnight?
You may stay overnight the night before any day that you are required to report to the courthouse if you live approximately 60 miles or more (one-way) from the courthouse. This includes the night before your first reporting date. You must have your own money or a credit card to cover the first night because the court will not be able to reimburse you on the first day you report. The court will mail you a list of hotels before the date you are to report. You may stay wherever you wish near the courthouse. When making your reservation, ask if they have a government rate that would apply to federal jurors. If verification is requested when you check in, present your summons. If you have a problem finding a room please contact the jury clerk.
27. What should or shouldn't I bring with me when I report for jury duty?
- Photo ID (required to enter the building);
- Jury summons (you may be asked to identify yourself as a juror); and
- Enough clothing and personal items to accommodate a stay of up to five days if you live 60 or more miles away (one-way) and are staying overnight.
Allowed personal items:
- Newspaper, book, magazine, etc.;
- Laptop computer (if you present your summons upon entering the building; free wireless Internet access is available in Omaha and Lincoln);
- Food, snacks, or items for special dietary needs (refrigerators and microwaves are available in Omaha and Lincoln); and
- Cellular phone (if you present your summons upon entering the building; must be turned off or silenced in courtroom).
- Cameras and other image/video devices;
- Mace or pepper spray;
- Portable TVs; and
28. What should I wear?
Either casual or professional dress is acceptable. Bring a sweater or light jacket because the courtroom temperatures may vary.
29. If I am selected to report, does that mean I will serve as a juror on a case?
Not necessarily. A jury will be selected from the large group of people who are summoned to report.
30. How long will I be there the first day?
A jury will be picked on the first day you report for jury duty. If you report in the morning and are not chosen as a juror, you could be dismissed by noon or early afternoon. If you are chosen to serve as a juror, you will be finished by approximately 5:00 p.m.
31. What are the standard court hours during a trial?
Most trials begin at 9:00 a.m. and end by 5:00 p.m. Jurors are given at least one hour for lunch and will receive one break in the morning and one break in the afternoon.
32. How do I prove to my employer that I was on jury duty?
As part of the check-in process on the day you report, the jury clerks will provide you with a certificate of attendance to give to your employer.
33. What if I am late or just don't show up?
Any person summoned for jury service who fails to appear as directed may be ordered by the district court to appear and show cause for his or her failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to show good cause for noncompliance may be fined, imprisoned, and/or ordered to complete community service.
34. What if bad weather is predicted?
For weather-related announcements, you can call the court starting at 6:00 a.m., Central Time. If you are serving in Omaha or North Platte, call 1-866-220-4381, option 7. If you are serving in Lincoln, call 1-866-220-4379, option 7.
Jurors who live some distance from the courthouse should bring enough clothing and personal items to accommodate a stay of up to five days if bad weather is predicted.
35. How are people actually chosen to be on a jury for a specific trial?
The judge, the lawyers, or both the judge and the lawyers will ask the jurors who reported for service a series of questions. The questions can cover topics such as the jurors' background, employment, friends, beliefs, and so on. This questioning, which takes place in the courtroom, is called "voir dire." Based on the answers that the jurors give, the lawyers pick the individuals who will actually be on the jury for that trial. Jurors who are not picked are usually free to leave the courthouse.
36. May I take notes or ask questions during the trial?
The judge will let the jurors know if they may take notes or ask questions.
37. How long does a trial last?
The length of a trial depends on how complicated the issues are. Most trials last three to five days.
38. Does the court provide meals?
The court does not provide meals, so you are free to go out to eat. Court staff can give you a list of restaurants near the courthouse. If you want to bring your own food, the court provides a refrigerator and microwave if you are serving in Omaha or Lincoln.
39. May I go home each night? Will I ever be required to serve late in the evening or stay overnight?
Unless the judge tells you otherwise, you may go home each night. Occasionally, trials continue into the evening hours. If this happens, the judge will give you time to make arrangements and to call your family.
It is very unlikely that you would ever be required to stay overnight unless the judge orders the jury in a criminal case "sequestered." A sequestered jury is one kept from most outside contacts during the trial.
40. Will I be asked to report for jury selection more than once during my term of service?
If you report and are not selected as a juror, you could be called to report again. Continue to call the automated jury message system until the court tells you that your service is finished.
41. How can my family reach me in an emergency?
Your family should call the clerk's office, and a court employee will get the message to you as soon as possible.
If you are serving in Omaha or North Platte, your family should call 402-661-7350 or toll free 1- 866-220-4381 (dial zero for immediate assistance).
If you are serving in Lincoln, your family should call 402-437-1900 or toll free 1-866-220-4379 (dial zero for immediate assistance).
42. What will the court pay for?
Attendance fee: You will be paid a $40 attendance fee for each day that you report for jury duty. (Employees of the federal government are not entitled to the attendance fee).
Lodging: The court will pay for your subsistence and lodging at the current rate if you cannot return home each night. You can find the current mileage, subsistence, and appearance fees on the court's Juror Web page.
Mileage: You will receive the current mileage rate for travel to and from your home and the courthouse. You can find the current mileage, subsistence, and appearance fees on the court's Juror Web page.
Parking: You will be reimbursed for parking. If your parking costs more than $25.00, you will need to give the court a receipt.
43. Are my attendance fees taxable?
Yes, attendance fees are reportable and taxable. Jurors paid $600 or more in attendance fees will receive a 1099 Form from the court. This form will be mailed prior to January 31 of the following year. For additional information visit the Internal Revenue Service Website at www.irs.gov.
44. What is a supplemental questionnaire?
A supplemental questionnaire is an additional questionnaire that asks jurors to answer in advance questions often asked during jury selection. This questionnaire shortens the time needed for jury selection, so it saves jurors' time and taxpayers' money.
45. Am I required to complete the supplemental questionnaire?
No, the information is requested, but not required.
46. Who will see the information provided in the supplemental questionnaire?
The information will be shared with the lawyers in those cases where you might be a juror, but it is confidential and does not become part of the public case files. The lawyers are required to destroy copies of the supplemental questionnaires after the jury is selected.
47. Are counseling services available to petit and grand jurors?
Yes, the court may provide counseling services to grand and petit jurors through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in cases with especially troubling testimony and evidence. Services are provided by Federal Occupational Health, a component of the U.S. Public Health Service. EAP counseling services can be provided as long as the jurors are serving; it is not available once jurors have been dismissed from service. The trial judge must enter an order prior to the end of trial extending “for administrative purposes” the jurors’ term of service for a period sufficient to allow individual jurors to obtain counseling. Jurors can be provided up to six sessions each.
48. What if I have a prior conviction and I do not know if my civil rights have been restored?
It is your responsibility to determine whether your civil rights have been restored. If your civil rights have been restored, please enclose documentation to prove your status. Unfortunately, without documentation showing that your civil rights have been restored, the court will be unable to call you for jury service.