The ultimate decision in civil action is rendered by jurors. A civil jury shall consist of twelve (12) jurors. .” Cal. Code Proc. §220. The first step toward understanding the composition of California juries begins with a basic understanding of the qualifications to serve as jurors.
These are the California qualifications to serve as a juror:
A U.S. citizen
At least 18 years old
You understand English enough to understand and discuss the case
A resident of the county that sent you the jury summons
You have not served on a jury in the last 12 months
You are not currently on a grand jury or on another trial jury
Are not under a conservatorship
You have not been convicted of a felony unless your civil rights were restored by the Court.
Generally, no one is exempt from jury service because of employment, or on the grounds of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, or economic status. Persons over the age of 70 and have a serious health problems may be excused for jury service. Temporary disability or illness will not excuse or disqualify a person from jury service but may serve as grounds for a postponement of jury service.
Even if a person is qualified to be a juror, the judge may excuse a juror based upon evidence that jury service would constitute an “undue hardship.” There is no uniform standard for defining the circumstances constituting undue hardship. Each judge is largely free to develop individual policies for the courtroom. Generally persons with significant physical or mental impairment, solo proprietors or others who would suffer extreme financial burden from prolonged absence from the business, persons responsible for taking care of another person and there is no one else available to do it.
California pays jurors $15 every day starting on the second day of service, except employees of governmental entities who receive full pay and benefits from their employers while on jury service. All jurors receive at least 34 cents for each mile they travel to court.
Length of Service
California has adopted a “one-day or one-trial jury service policy”. This means that individuals are not required to come to court for more than one day of jury duty unless they are assigned to a courtroom for jury selection, or serve on a trial more than once every 12 months. Typically if a person has not been chosen for jury selection after one day, their service is deemed fulfilled for at least one year. If a person is selected to serve on a jury, after the trial is over the service also deemed fulfilled for at least a year and often longer.
Protection of Jurors Service on Juries
California law protects jurors against discrimination arising from the jurors’ decision to serve on a jury. California Labor Code, section 230 holds that an employer may not fire or harass an employee who is summoned to serve as a juror.
Jury Selection Process
Individual jurors are selected from a list of citizens within each jurisdictional district. Potential jurors are selected randomly from the voter registration list and the Department of Motor Vehicles’ lists of drivers and identification card holders. These selected individuals make up the jury pool. Jury pools must be comprised of randomly selected individuals. According to California Code of Civil Procedure, section 197, “all persons selected for jury service be selected at random, from a source or sources inclusive of a representative cross section of the population of the area serviced by the court…” As a result, a person may not volunteer for jury service.
Jury selection is governed by the Trial Jury Selection and Management Act. California Code of Civil Procedure, section 190 et seq. Pursuant to these rules, each party to a civil action has the right to question prospective jurors for bias. In fact the rules provide that judges shall allow attorneys liberal latitude in the scope of the questions asked to prospective jurors. In determining the scope of this questioning the judge shall consider the “unique or complex elements, legal or factual issues in the case and the individual responses or conduct of jurors which may evince attitudes inconsistent with suitability to serve as a fair and impartial juror in the particular case.” Cal. Code Proc. §222.5. However, a judge may restrict counsel from asking questions designed “to precondition the prospective jurors to a particular result, indoctrinate the jury, or question the prospective jurors concerning the pleadings or the applicable law.” Cal. Code Proc. §222.5. But a judge may not “arbitrarily or unreasonably refuse to submit reasonable written questionnaires, the contents of which are determined by the court in its sound discretion, when requested by counsel.” Cal. Code Proc. §222.5.
Before questioning the prospective jurors shall be given the following oath:
Do you, and each of you, understand and agree that you will
accurately and truthfully answer, under penalty of perjury, all
questions propounded to you concerning your qualifications and
competency to serve as a trial juror in the matter pending before this
court and that failure to do so may subject you to criminal
prosecution. Cal. Code Proc. §323
After the completion of the initial questioning, the attorneys are free to objection to or challenge the panel as a whole or the individual jurors. These challenges usually take two major forms: challenges for cause and preemptory challenges. Challenges for cause are usually based upon the following reasons:
1) Juror is not qualified i.e. not eighteen years old.
2) Juror is implied bias.
3) Juror is actually bias. The existence of a state of mind on the
part of the juror in reference to the case, or to any of the parties,
which will prevent the juror from acting with entire impartiality,
and without prejudice to the substantial rights of any party.
These challenges for cause should be made in the following order:
(a) Objections to the panel in its entirety.
(b) To an individual juror, for a general disqualification.
(c) To an individual juror, for an implied bias.
(d) To an individual juror, for an actual bias.
Challenges for cause may be based upon a jurors’ inability to be fair and impartial. These challenges may be based upon a prospective juror’s (1) “an unqualified opinion or belief as to the merits of the action founded upon knowledge of its material facts…” or (2) enmity or bias in favor or against a party, a party may object. Cal. Code Proc. §§229(e)(f).
In cases involving two parties, each party is permitted six (6) peremptory challenges. In cases involving more than two parties, each side shall be permitted eight (8) peremptory challenges. Cal. Code Proc. §231(c).
After the questioning by the lawyers and the exhaustion of challenges, the jurors will be given the following oath:
Do you and each of you understand and agree that you will well
and truly try the cause now pending before this court, and
try the cause now pending before the court and a true verdict render
according only to the evidence presented to you and to the
instruction of the court. Cal. Code Proc. §232(d)
Jurors are selected from a list of citizens of the juridical district the court sits. Potential jurors are selected randomly from the voter registration list and the Department of Motor Vehicles’ lists of drivers and identification card holders. These selected individuals make up the jury pool. Jury pools must be comprised of randomly selected individuals. According the best predictor of the individuals comprising a jury pool is the demographics of the area.