QI just received a summons. What should I do now?
A. You've been told where and when to report for jury selection in the summons, and a number to call the night before to see if you actually have to report, and another number to call if you need to reschedule your call to duty.
For the most part, if you call the number with enough advance notice, you usually can reschedule your appearance if you need to, but of course, the good-citizen thing to do is to answer the call on the date they need you. You and all other potential jurors also are encouraged to fill out and return the accompanying questionnaire.
Remember, you could be called for civil or criminal court.
QGreat, a questionnaire. What questions should I look forward to?
A. For starters, the questionnaire will inquire about general biographical and residence information, to help lawyers who have to choose a jury for trial.
Once you arrive at jury duty and are placed in a a jury pool, attorneys for either side also will ask a variety of questions including whether or not you have heard of the case, if you watch the news and whether or not you've been a victim of crime or work in law enforcement.
The questions tend to vary depending on the nature of the case.
If you are excused based on your answer to these questions, you'll still get credit for serving jury duty.
QI'm all for civic duty and want be prepared when I get to court. What should I bring - and wear?
A. Most courtrooms throughout the Philadelphia justice system - in the CJC, 1301 Filbert St., and in City Hall - are more cold than warm. Dress comfortably, but bring a sweater. Absolutely do not wear shorts.
Along with your summons, you will need to bring photo identification. Food and drink are not allowed in the courtroom, but you can bring books, newspapers, magazines and an iPod/MP3 player. Most courts ask you to check-in your cell phone. You can bring a note pad - the courts allow note-taking.
QI've heard jury duty can go anywhere from one day to one month or more, given the nature of the case I may be selected for. Where should I park during my service - and where can I eat?
A. Usually, jurors serve for only a day or two. But you still need to get there - and eat.
First, try public transit. The CJC and City Hall are close to Suburban Station and the City Hall stop of the Broad Street subway; they are also accessible by bus.
If you must drive, there are numerous parking lots close to the respective courthouses, many of which offer a discount to jurors.
There is Patriot Parking, at 1305 Walnut St., the Center City Parking Co., at 142 N. Broad St., Parkway Corp., 150 N. Broad St. and Philly Park, 1329 Race St.
There are numerous eateries within walking distance of each court in Philadelphia, with Reading Terminal serving as the choice spot.
Vegetarians may want to stop by the Basic 4 Vegetarian Snack bar, and there is a Chili's across from the CJC. To duck away from the lawyer types, head over to the third-floor eatery in Macy's, 13th and Market streets. Have your juror badge handy, as some restaurants offer discounts to those serving on jury duty.
QOK, I'll report for duty. I hear jurors get paid. Do they?
A. Jurors get $9 per day for the first three days of duty, and $25 per day after that. Usually, though, jurors serve only a day or two.
QI've also heard there are a number of official excuses one could use to get out of jury duty. What might those be?
A. There really is no legal way for you to duck jury duty forever; in addition to a hefty fine (upward of $500 for repeat offenders), those wiggling out of jury duty are harming the justice system.
But there are legitimate, short-term excuses, such as overriding health concerns and family emergencies. "I'll lose my job" will not stand up as a good reason, because federal and state law prohibits employers from punishing a worker who has been summoned for duty.
Transportation is not a good excuse, either, as the courts would prefer that jurors use public transportation to reach the respective court.
QI've received a summons, but didn't call or go on my scheduled day. How much trouble am I in, and how can I make that right?
A. You're in some trouble, but not much, as long as you're not a habitual jury-ducker. You should immediately call the Jury Selection Committee at 215-683-7170, tell them your situation and make some sort of arrangement. The system usually works with potential jurors who are up-front about their situations.
QWhat other resources are out there for potential jurors?
A. There are plenty of online resources.
Does it send a little chill of "Oh, no, not this!" through you?
If so, think of it this way:
By your doing your jury duty, you play an essential role in the carriage of justice. You ensure that rights are upheld and wrongdoers get what they deserve. You uphold democracy.
That's no exaggeration, say the Philadelphia civic groups behind Juror Appreciation Day, which is celebrated today.
"Our justice system - and, more specifically, our crime victims - depend on those citizens who do their civic duty by serving as jurors," said District Attorney Lynne Abraham, "and we appreciate them very, very much."
This is the city's eighth Juror Appreciation Day, recognizing the work of jurors in Common Pleas courts. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts and the First Judicial District - the Philly court system - is celebrating with the Sound of Philadelphia: They're sponsoring a "Face The Music - Jury Duty!" event inside the Criminal Justice Center. They're bringing in music legend Kenny Gamble, elected officials and court officials.
Events to celebrate jurors - and to help them understand their role in the system - will continue statewide through May 13.
Meanwhile, the People Paper is participating by printing this guide of useful tips for jurors. Hopefully, this will make your next experience with a juror's summons much easier to handle. *