Jury Selection & Service Act [JSS Act]

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Jury Selection & Service Act [JSS Act]

Postby Administrator » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:44 am

The Jury Selection & Service Act [JSS Act] governs the procedures for calling person to serve on juries in federal courts. The policy of the federal court system is for all citizens to have the opportunity to be considered for service on grand and petit juries. 28 U.S.C. 1861. The JSS Act prohibits exclusion from federal jury service based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status. 28 U.S.C. 1862; U.S. v. Davis, 546 F.2d 583, 589 [5th Cir.1977].

Each district must devise and implement a written plan for selecting jurors. 28 U.S.C. 1863[a]; U.S. v. McKinney, 53 F.3d 664, 670 [5th Cir.1995]. Before it can be implemented, the plan must be approved by the judicial council of the circuit. 28 U.S.C. 1863[a]; In re Jury Plan of the Eastern District of New York, 61 R.3d 119, 120 [2nd Cir.1995].

The district court must decide whether it will draw jurors from the voter registration lists or from lists of actual voters from the political subdivision in the court’s district. 28 U.S.C. 1863[b][2].

The plan must specify the method to be used and prescribe a source of additional names, when necessary, to provide a fair cross section of the community. Id.; U.S. v. Bailey, 76 F.3d 320, 321-22 [10th Cir.1996] [Colorado voter registration and driver’s license lists]; U.S. v. Lewis, 10 F.3d 1086, 1090 [4th Cir.1993] [South Carolina voter registration list]. Once drawn, the names of the prospective jurors are placed in a master jury wheel or similar device.

The clerk of the district court draws the names of as many persons as may be needed for jury service. Those person are sent a juror qualification form to be completed and returned within ten days. 28 U.S.C. 1864[a]; U.S. v. McKinney, 53 F.3d 664, 670 [5th Cir.1995]; U.S. v. Pion, 25 F.3d 18, 24 [1st Cir.1994]. The completed forms are not provided to the parties for voir dire unless required by the district’s jury selection plan. 28 U.S.C. 1867[f]. A party can obtain copies of the juror qualification forms if the forms are necessary to support a motion to stay the proceedings because the clerk did not comply with the proper juror selection procedures. 28 U.S.C. 1867[f]; U.S. v. Gray, 47 F.3d 1359, 1367-68 [4th Cir.1995].

The names of persons who are qualified to serve as jurors, and who are not exempt or excused, are kept in a qualified jury wheel. 28 U.S.C. 1866[a]. If selected, those person are sent a summons for jury duty. 28 U.S.C. 1866[b].

Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 48 provides for a minimum of six and a maximum of 12 jurors to be seated in a civil case. Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous and rendered by at least six jurors. Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 48.

During trial, the court may excuse a juror for good cause. Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 47[c].

Because alternate jurors were abolished by the 1991 revision of Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 47, in most cases the court will seat more than six jurors. 1991 Notes to Fed.R.Civ.Proc. 48.

All seated jurors will participate in the verdict, and a sufficient number will remain to render a unanimous verdict of six or more.

If a jury is depleted beyond the minimum during trial, the parties may agree to be bound by a verdict rendered by fewer than six jurors.

Barring exceptional circumstances, the parties should not be encouraged to waive the right to a jury of six, not only because of the constitutional stature of the right, but also because smaller juries are more erratic and less effective.

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