Even college students have to participate on juries

A nonresidency exemption from jury duty could apply to students.

Kevin Behr

About three weeks ago, Alison Carter got a letter many people dread: a summons to jury duty.

The communications studies and English literature senior said she was initially nervous and upset by the letter. A past experience with the court system that confused her record with a criminal’s left her with negative feelings about going to court, she said.

“I was a little frustrated” upon receiving the letter, Carter said. “Initially, I was dreading it.”

So Carter did what just about anybody would do: she tried to get out of it. Carter said she called and asked to be removed from service because she’s a student. She said she thought she’d be able to get out of it because her mom had jury duty waived while she was in college.

Unfortunately for Carter, being a college student isn’t an excuse for missing jury duty, said Lynn Lahd, Hennepin County court operations supervisor of the jury division.

Potential jurors are selected from a pool of names collected from driver’s licenses and voter registration cards, Lahd said. So if students’ addresses are located in Hennepin County or they have voted, they’re fair game for jury service, she said.

Exemptions from jury service are limited to those who: are serving in the military, have a doctor’s note saying they are physically or mentally unable to serve, or are 70 or older and decide to opt out, Lahd said.

A special nonresidency guideline might apply to students, however. Students who attend courses at the University and hold permanent residence in a different county or state are exempt as long as they provide a driver’s license showing their permanent address.

Students “get frustrated with us, but we do require documentation to prove where they’re residing,” Lahd said. Otherwise, it would just be too easy for people to avoid service, she said.

Carter, to whom the exemption doesn’t apply, said she was upset with the rule primarily because she has to focus on class and graduate in May. She said she can’t just take two weeks off during school to sit in the courthouse.

People summoned to jury service must report to the courthouse every day for two weeks and wait to be called to hear a case, Lahd said. Even then, they’re not guaranteed a spot. The courts recommend bringing a book.

Carter thought maybe the nonexemption rules were new, but Nancy Peters, spokesperson for the 4th Judicial District, set the record straight. It simply isn’t a new thing, she said. College and high school students have always been eligible for jury service, Peters said.

For students who are summoned but taking classes, their only recourse is to postpone their service date until classes take a break anytime within the next six months, Peters said.

So, Carter deferred her service until July, but she said she’s afraid it could hurt her chances of being hired at a full-time job.

Employers must excuse workers to attend jury duty, but don’t have to reimburse their wages for missed work.

If none of that sounds appealing, the last option remaining is to skip out completely, but beware: an arrest warrant will be issued for anyone dodging jury duty, Peters said.

Carter said she will probably be reading a lot during her two-week stint as a potential juror.

“Hopefully I’ll get put on an interesting case,” she said. “But, at this point, I don’t really care.”