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the TrialJury Service
The idea of a jury of our peers has been fundamental to the American justice system since its beginning. A group of six to 12 men and women from all sections of the community sit down together and hear a case brought before the court. These individuals listen to the facts of the case, apply the law provided by the judge, consult among themselves, and come to a verdict.
Responsibilities of the Judge and Jury
In order for our court system to work properly, judges and jurors must consider the cases before them in a way that is thoughtful, involves sound judgment, is impartial and fair, and shows integrity.
In each trial, the judge determines the rules of law that govern the case. For example, the judge decides what evidence may be admitted or considers attorneys’ objections to something that was said during trial. At times, the judge may excuse the jury from the courtroom or may speak to the attorneys privately. When this occurs, jurors should not feel that their time is being wasted or that information is being withheld. These conferences allow the trial to continue fairly and efficiently.
At the close of the trial, the judge gives jurors instructions as to the laws that govern the case. At this time, the responsibility switches to the jurors. After listening carefully and considering all of the testimony and evidence, jurors move to the jury room to discuss the case in privacy. Jurors decide which facts in the case are most credible and then apply the law as instructed by the judge in order to reach a verdict.
Types of Cases
Juries are called to hear two types of cases: civil and criminal.
Civil cases involve disputes between people or organizations. They may involve property or personal rights, such as landlord/tenant disputes, auto or personal injury accidents, product warranties, contract disputes, and harassment and employment disputes.
The party that sues is called the plaintiff, while the party being sued is known as the defendant or respondent. The case begins when the plaintiff files a written complaint. The other party then generally disputes the claim by filing an answer.
In a civil case, jurors decide which party should prevail and whether damages (usually money) should be awarded.
Criminal cases are filed on behalf of citizens by the State of Iowa against individuals or corporations accused of committing crimes. In most cases, a prosecutor files a complaint, which explains the charges against the defendant. If the charge is brought by a grand jury, it is known as an indictment.
The person charged with an offense may admit the charge is true by entering a plea of guilty or may deny the charge by pleading not guilty.
In a criminal case, jurors decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
- How was I selected for jury service?
- Why must I serve? What happens if I do not serve?
- What are the qualifications for jury service?
- Who can be excused from jury service?
- May I postpone my jury service?
- How long does jury service last?
- What if I need special accommodations?
- Will I be paid for my jury service?
- Do I get reimbursed for childcare while serving as a juror?
- Is jury pay taxable?
- Does my employer have to let me leave work to serve?
- Does my employer have to pay me while I serve?
- I am self-employed and am not getting paid. Do I still have to serve?
- What if this time poses a hardship for me?
- I am a student and in class during the time that I am summoned for jury service. What should I do?
- I am a student and have received a summons to report for jury duty during the school year. Does that disqualify me from jury service?
- I am a seasonal worker. May I serve during my downtime?
- Do I get a verification of jury service for my employer?
- What if I fail to appear for jury service?
If you have further questions, call the contact number listed on your summons. The number is also given on your county's page, available from the County Information tab on this page.
Each year, the Iowa Judicial Branch obtains names from a list of licensed drivers, state identification card holders, and registered voters residing in your county and compiles that information into a master jury list. The names of deceased persons, provided by the Department of Health, are removed from the source list. From that list, individuals are randomly selected by computer. View the master jury list here.
The Constitutions of the United States and the State of Iowa guarantee defendants in criminal cases and litigants in civil cases the right to a trial by jury. As a prospective juror, you have an opportunity to participate directly in a critical component of our democracy.
If you miss jury service without providing sufficient reason, the court may issue an order requiring you to appear and explain why you should not be punished for contempt.
The court will never contact you and ask you to pay a fine with a money card to avoid being arrested for missing jury service. If you receive a suspicious call asking for payment of a fine for missing jury service, promptly contact your local Sheriff’s Office.
A prospective juror must:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be a resident of the county in which they were summoned
- Be eighteen years of age or older.
- Be able to understand the English language in a written, spoken or manually signed mode
- Be able to receive and evaluate information such that the person is capable of rendering satisfactory juror service
- Not have served as a grand or petit (trial) juror within the past 24 months
A person who has received a jury summons will be excused if they provide proof of any of the following reasons:
- Not a citizen of the United States
- Not a resident of the county
- Not yet 18 years old
- Unable to communicate in the English language
- Has a physical or mental disability preventing jury service (doctor's note)
- Has served as a state juror within the past two years
If you are disqualified or excused, confirmation notice will be sent to you.
You can request a postponement for up to 12 months for hardship, inconvenience, or public necessity, temporary physical or mental illness or infirmity, active educational pursuit, or scheduled vacation. You will need to provide written documentation supporting the request. You may request a postponement online (opens new window), or by calling the contact number listed on your summons.
The length of the term of service varies from county to county, depending on county population. Our goal is to employ the shortest term of service without exhausting the available pool of jurors over a two-year period. Refer to your summons or your county website to determine your specific terms of service.
The Iowa Judicial Branch is committed to providing all people with equal access to the courts. To achieve this goal, the Iowa Judicial Branch strives to make reasonable accommodations for jurors and all court users with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Iowa Civil Rights Act.
If you are summoned for jury service in the Iowa state courts and you request an accommodation for a disability that may affect your ability to serve as a juror, the court will make every attempt to provide you with a reasonable accommodation for your jury service. When you respond to your juror summons by completing and returning your qualification questionnaire (either on-line or by mail) to the court, describe your disability and what type of accommodation you are requesting that would enable you to perform jury service. If you are requesting an accommodation to serve, jury staff from the summoning court will contact you prior to your reporting date to confirm the accommodation requested and the arrangements that can be made to enable you to perform jury service.
If you want to speak to jury staff about your disability and request for accommodation prior to completing and returning your juror Questionnaire to the court, you will find contact information for your county under the Court Directory tab of this website.
If you need special accommodations, such as a sight or sign-language interpreter, hearing amplification, or special seating, contact the ADA coordinator for your county.
Yes. Jurors are reimbursed for travel to and from the courthouse and for parking expenses. Jurors receive $30 a day for serving up to seven days, and $50 per day for each day that exceeds seven days of service. State employees that work in the courthouse are not paid for jury service, or reimbursed for travel to and from the courthouse and for parking expenses.
Yes, it must be reported as income for tax purposes. You must keep a record of the amounts you receive because no tax has been withheld. You will only receive an IRS Form 1099 if the amount is over $600.
Your employer must allow you time off to serve on a jury. That is the law. Iowa law prohibits any employer from firing or harassing an employee who is summoned for jury service. However, you must let your employer know well in advance, ideally as soon as you receive your summons. You should contact the court if you have a problem with your employer. Remember that you can postpone jury service to a more convenient time.
No. While there is no Iowa law that requires employers to pay employees while serving jury duty, many do so in recognition of the importance of jury service.
You will need to check with your employer. Also, individuals who belong to labor unions may be covered through their union contracts.
Being self-employed does not excuse you from jury service.
After you have submitted your questionnaire, you may request a postponement of service for up to twelve months. You may request a postponement online (opens new window), or by calling the contact number listed on your summons.
I am a student and have received a jury summons to report for jury duty during the school year. Does that disqualify me from jury service?
Not necessarily. It depends upon where you permanently reside (determined by the address on your driver's license) and which Iowa county summoned you to serve as a juror:
If you are a resident of the county that summoned you, you are required to serve on jury duty.
If you are not a resident of the county that summoned you, you are disqualified to serve as a juror.
For example, if you are a resident of Wright County and the summons is from Polk County, you are disqualified because you are a permanent resident of Wright County.
If you are a student, you can request that your jury service be postponed to a later date (i.e., during a school break). You may request a postponement online (opens new window), or by calling the contact number listed on your summons.
Yes. After you have submitted your questionnaire, you may request a postponement of service for up to twelve months. You may request a postponement online (opens new window), or by calling the contact number listed on your summons.
At the end of your service or upon request, the jury manager for your county can provide you with a written verification of the days that you reported for jury service.
If you received a juror summons and failed to appear, you can be fined, incarcerated, or both.
Important: The court will not contact you and ask you to pay a fine with a money card to avoid being arrested for missing jury service.
If you have questions about completing a questionnaire or if you encounter technical problems with the online questionnaire, call the contact number listed on your summons. The number is also given on the county page, available on the County Information tab on this page.
Information for jurors, including instructions for parking, check-in, ADA contacts, and who to call in case of absence or emergency.
Completing the Juror Questionnaire accurately will help the court determine if you are qualified to serve as a juror. It is important that the records of your name and address are accurate and up-to-date. Include any changes in your personal information when completing your questionnaire. Incorrect information may cause delays in receiving important jury notices or your payment after you complete your jury service.
Iowa citizens who receive a summons for jury service should complete a Juror Questionnaire and return it to the court within ten (10) days from receipt of the summons for qualification determination.
You can complete the questionnaire online, or you can request a paper questionnaire by calling the general information number on your summons.
The website allows you to respond to your summons for jury service online, and also allows you to make changes, request a postponement, and update your contact information.
Click Complete Questionnaire Online to begin completing and submitting your questionnaire online.
Further instructions on how to complete and submit your questionnaire to the court will appear within the online Juror Qualification Questionnaire service.
Internet Explorer and Firefox are recommended for the online Juror Questionnaire service. Performance with other browsers may be inconsistent. If you do not have a recommended browser, you can download one here: Internet Explorer or Firefox.
How to Request a Paper Questionnaire
If you do not wish to use this website or do not choose to download one of the recommended browsers, call the general information number on your summons and request a paper questionnaire.
No Automatic Excusals from Jury Duty
There are no automatic excusals from jury duty. If you are summoned you must serve on jury duty unless you are disqualified or excused by the court for one of the following reasons:
- You are not a citizen of the United States
- You are under 18 years of age
- You are not a resident of the county that summoned you for service
- You are not able to communicate in English
- You have a mental or physical disability that would affect your ability to serve
- You have served on jury duty within the past 2 years
If You Have Questions
If you have questions about completing a questionnaire or if you encounter technical problems with the online questionnaire, call the contact number listed on your summons.
If you have questions relating to your jury service, check the frequently asked questions FAQs tab on this page.
Voir Dire: Jury Selection
Potential jurors are randomly selected from driver’s license, state ID, and voter registration records. The length of jury service depends on the county in which a juror lives, but cannot exceed three months. Jurors receive a summons that tells them to appear at the courthouse for jury service.
When a jury case is called, the Clerk of Courts randomly chooses potential jurors and sends them to a courtroom for interviews, known as voir dire [vwahr deer]. In the courtroom, you will learn more about the case and you will be questioned by the judge and attorneys so they may determine whether you are qualified to serve. Depending on the type of case or the procedures used in your county, you may be questioned individually or in a group. If you feel you should not serve as a juror, or if you know the parties, witnesses or attorneys involved in the case, tell the judge and attorneys as soon as possible.
During the interview, an attorney may challenge for cause if the attorney feels that a potential juror cannot be fair and impartial. The judge must then decide whether to allow the challenge and excuse the juror. Attorneys may also excuse a juror by using a peremptory challenge, which does not require the attorney to give a reason for excusing a juror. Do not take offense if you are challenged. This is a normal part of voir dire.
If you are not excused, you will become a member of the jury and will take an oath before hearing the case. Alternate jurors may also be assigned to a case.
We the Jury: This five minute introduction explains the history and importance of jury service.
When the jury has taken the oath, attorneys on each side of the case may make opening statements. Opening statements should not be considered evidence. Opening statements introduce the attorney’s theory of the case to the jurors.
The next step in the trial is the presentation of evidence. Usually the plaintiff’s attorney in a civil case or the prosecutor in a criminal case will begin. When the presentation is complete, the plaintiff or prosecutor will rest and the defense may then present its evidence. A defendant is not required to present evidence.
Evidence may include physical exhibits, such as photographs, objects, or documents. It can also include a spoken statement from someone under oath, also known as testimony. On occasion, people may testify before the trial begins. When the testimony is written down or videotaped and submitted to the court, it is known as a deposition. The judge will decide what evidence the law allows jurors to consider.
Many things should not be considered as evidence, including the questions asked, statements and arguments of the attorneys. Testimony the jury has heard but the judge has ordered stricken from the record should not be considered. In fact, the jury must treat this testimony as if it was never given. In addition, things that an attorney offers to prove but which the judge will not allow to be presented, should not be considered as evidence.
It is important that jurors only consider evidence presented during the trial and approved by the judge when making their final decision. Do not conduct your own research by visiting the location referred to in the case, looking for additional information elsewhere (including using electronic means), or using personal knowledge you may have about a person or place involved in the case.
During the trial, attorneys will often call witnesses to testify. Each witness is sworn in and promises to tell the truth. A witness may be the attorney’s own client or someone else who can testify on behalf of the client. In civil cases, attorneys may require the opposing party or someone close to that party to testify. This person is known as an adverse witness.
When attorneys question their own witnesses, it is called direct examination. When attorneys question an adverse witness, it is called cross-examination. When direct examination is complete, the opposing attorney may cross-examine the witness. Following those questions, the first attorney can conduct redirect examination. Recross examination may also be permitted
If a witness says something that fails to answer a question or should not be allowed in the case, the judge may strike the remark from the record. If this happens, you must disregard the testimony as if it was not given.
Court rules set the guidelines for conducting a fair and orderly trial. Sometimes, however, one of the attorneys may feel that the questions or evidence presented by the opposing attorney is improper or should not be considered by the jury. It is the attorney’s responsibility in these instances to make objections to the judge. If the judge considers the question improper or the evidence inadmissible, the objection will be sustained. Otherwise, the objection will be overruled.
The judge’s ruling does not mean that the judge favors one side or attorney over the other, and jurors should not allow themselves to be influenced by the rulings.
On occasion, the attorneys may speak to the judge privately at the bench or in the judge’s chambers, or the judge may excuse the jury from the courtroom. No matter how or when this occurs, do not feel slighted or attempt to guess what is being discussed. Generally, the attorneys and judge are discussing legal matters about the case, covering sensitive matters beforehand to minimize the possibility of a mistrial, or clarifying issues that could lead to an appeal and possible retrial. Sometimes, the parties reach a settlement during these conferences. While it may seem that time is being wasted, these conferences often avoid longer trials or any trial at all, which saves juror and court time, and considerable public expense.
After the attorneys have presented the evidence, they make closing arguments. Closing arguments provide a summary of the attorneys’ arguments and evidence, but are not evidence themselves and should not be considered as such.
When testimony is completed, the judge will review the laws that apply to the case. This is important information because it provides you with direction about how you must apply the law to the facts. Please listen carefully. Remember that you are governed by the law as the judge explains it to you. Do not attempt to change it or ignore it, even if you disagree with the law. You and the judge are under oath to apply the laws of the state accurately and fairly.
When closing arguments are completed and the judge gives the jury instructions about the laws to consider in the case, the jury will be excused to the jury room to deliberate or discuss the case.
The jury’s first task is to choose a foreperson that will monitor the deliberations and take the verdict into court. Jurors may choose a foreperson by ballot or by verbally nominating someone.
The foreperson makes sure that each juror has a chance to participate in deliberations and that the jury discusses the issues completely while making its decision. In turn, each juror should listen to and consider the views of other jurors. Understand that your opinion may change during deliberations, but do not feel obligated to change your mind unless you are convinced it is the right thing to do. In the end, your final vote should represent your own opinion.
You must base your decisions about the case facts on the evidence presented during trial. But, you should also remember the judge’s instructions about weighing the evidence, how to decide what evidence to believe, and the burden of proof. Also, consider the arguments of the attorneys if you feel they were fair and reasonable. And, of course, consider the laws explained to you by the judge.
While you will not be given a transcript of the proceedings, you may take notes during the trial. Follow the judge’s instructions at the time of your service.
In a criminal case, all jurors must agree on the verdict. In a civil case, Iowa law says that if all jurors cannot agree on a verdict within six hours, then it is only necessary that a certain number of jurors agree, as the judge will instruct you.
Your findings on questions of fact are almost always final. Very seldom is a verdict set aside. Therefore, it is important that you listen carefully to the judge, witnesses and attorneys, deliberate calmly and fairly, and make the best decision you can.
Beware of Jury Service Scams
Iowans have been targeted by phone and email with fines and prosecution for failing to comply with jury service in federal or state courts. Jury service scam calls frequently target senior citizens. Recipients are pressured to provide confidential data or money. These calls and emails are fraudulent and are not connected with the U.S. courts.
If you have received an email or phone call asking you to provide personal information or send payment to avoid arrest or other penalty, it is a scam.
- Do not buy a money card to pay a fine for missing jury service
- If you receive a call asking for payment of a fine for missing jury service, promptly contact your local Sheriff’s Office and report the call
If you miss jury service, the court will never ask a law enforcement officer to collect a fine from you.