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Blog: It's Your Civic Duty

July 21, 2015

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The constitutions of the United States and Iowa guarantee the right to trial by jury. In order for this constitutionally-protected right to exist, citizens have a civic responsibility to serve when called for jury duty.

Depending on the type and complexity of the case at issue, jury service may involve long hours over many days, require jurors to carefully and objectively listen to unpleasant, emotional, graphic or complicated testimony and make difficult decisions as they determine the facts and apply the law. Jury service impacts not only those who serve as jurors, but also their families and employers. Given that, here are a few things you should know.

  • Federal and Iowa law prohibit employers from firing, threatening or retaliating against an employee because he or she receives a notice to report for jury duty, responds to the notice, serves as a juror, or attends court for prospective juror service. Employers may, however, require that employees provide reasonable notice of jury duty. In Iowa, employers that violate the law may be charged with contempt of court and ordered to reinstate the terminated employee, plus pay up to 6 weeks’ back wages and attorneys’ fees.
  • In Iowa state courts, prospective jurors are drawn from lists of registered voters and citizens holding motor vehicle licenses. Prospective jurors must be at least 18; U.S. citizens; understand English in a written, spoken or manually signed mode; and able to satisfactorily receive and evaluate information. Jurors are not required to serve more than three months unless necessary to complete a case. Citizens may not be called for jury service more than once in a two-year period.
  • Jurors and prospective jurors currently receive $30 a day for their service, plus reimbursement for mileage and parking expenses. Additional compensation may be provided if jury service exceeds seven days.
  • Many employers voluntarily pay employees who are absent from work due to jury service. However, neither Iowa nor federal law require employers to pay non-exempt salaried or hourly employees who are absent from their jobs because they are serving on a jury. Federal regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act require employers to pay full salaries to exempt employees who are absent from work for less than 1 week to perform jury service. The regulations do allow employers to offset any payment received by an exempt employee as jury or witness fees for a particular week against the salary due for that week.
  • Iowa law provides an automatic excuse from jury service for persons who verify in writing that they are solely responsible for the daily care of a permanently disabled person living in their household and that service on a jury would cause a substantial risk of injury to the health of the disabled person; or for any breast-feeding mother who is responsible for the daily care of her child. However, if the prospective juror seeking an automatic excuse from jury service is employed at a location other than the person’s household, he or she will not be automatically excused.

If the scheduled dates for jury service are particularly inconvenient or significantly interfere with other plans (for example, due to scheduled elective surgery or planned out-of-town travel), a prospective juror may be able to delay service to a later date. A specific request to be excused or to delay service must be submitted to the clerk of court or the judge, however, as failure to appear in response to a jury summons may result in a citation for contempt of court.

This blog post is authored by CYNTHIA C. MOSER and meant for informational purposes only. It is not meant to provide legal advice in any particular circumstance or factual situation. You should consult with an attorney prior to taking any action regarding the information contained herein.  

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