About Texas Courts
Jury Service as a Civic Duty and a Privilege
Your participation is important to Texas!
Both the Constitution of the United States and the Texas Constitution guarantee the right to a trial by jury. That right has long been considered a fundamental safeguard of each American's civil liberties. With your participation as a Texas juror, our constitutional right to an impartial jury is protected. As noted by the Honorable Tom C. Clark, Texan and former justice of the United States Supreme Court, "The jury system improves the quality of justice and is the sole means of keeping its administration attuned to community standards."
Jury service is a privilege that offers the average citizen an unequaled opportunity to influence and deliberate over fundamental matters of justice. As a juror, you are in a position of responsibility. You will need to be fair, impartial, and be willing to make decisions that are not based on your personal feelings and biases.
"The men and women who are called upon to serve on juries in both our federal and state courts have maintained a standard of fairness and excellence throughout the history of our country. They have demonstrated a vision and a will toward the administration of justice that is a wellspring of inspiration."
-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (1962)
Why did I receive a summons and what do I do now?
State law mandates the process for selecting prospective jurors. Each county receives a list of potential jurors from the Secretary of State that consists of those individuals in the county that are registered to vote, hold a Texas driver's license, or hold a Texas identification card. Citizens on the list are randomly selected and mailed a summons to report for jury service.
While some counties choose to mail a questionnaire to prospective jurors to determine their eligibility prior to mailing the official jury summons, other counties mail the questionnaire and the jury summons together.
You will be asked to return the completed questionnaire to the court by mail, or to bring the completed questionnaire with you when you report for jury service. If your county participates in I-Jury Online Impaneling and you have access to the internet, you may respond to your summons online and submit any scheduling conflicts without making a trip to the courthouse. Simply follow the I-Jury information enclosed with the juror summons you received.
The Selection Process
Receiving a summons for jury duty does not mean that you will actually serve on a jury. However, if you are qualified to serve and you do not ask to be excused or exempted, you will be able to participate in the jury selection process which may take only a day or a fraction of a day to complete. The process begins as groups of prospective jurors, usually numbering fifty to sixty in district courts, are assembled in a courtroom with the judge, the lawyers, and usually the parties of a particular case. Lawyers then conduct what is called voir dire (which means to speak the truth), which allows the lawyers and the judge to have the opportunity to ask each prospective juror a series of questions. While the lawyers are aware of your answers to the questionnaire that you filled out earlier, the lawyers and the judge may still ask you some of the same questions and some additional questions to ensure that you are indeed qualified to serve, and that you are indeed able to perform your civic duty in a fair and impartial manner. After questioning the prospective jurors, the lawyers and the parties they represent will be given the opportunity to make any challenges for cause and peremptory challenges to individual prospective jurors (see definitions). After all challenges are utilized, a jury with one to four alternates is impaneled to hear the evidence in the case.
At some point during the jury selection process, prospective jurors are given an oath by which they swear or affirm to tell the truth when answering questions about their qualifications as jurors.
Qualifications for Jury Service
You do not need any special skills or legal knowledge to be a juror!
To be qualified to serve as a juror you must:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- be a citizen of the United States;
- be a resident of this state and of the county in which you are to serve as a juror;
- be qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which you are to serve as a juror (Note: You do not have to be registered to vote to be qualified to vote);
- be of sound mind and good moral character;
- be able to read and write;
- not have served as a juror for six days during the preceding three months in the county court or during the preceding six months in the district court; and
- not have been convicted of, or be under indictment or other legal accusation for, misdemeanor theft or a felony.
*Note that the completion of deferred adjudication is not a disqualifying "conviction".
(Texas Government Code § 62.102. General Qualifications for Jury Service. Code of Criminal Procedure, Articles 35.16 et. seq.)
If you have any doubts as to your eligibility to serve on a jury, contact the judge or court as indicated on your jury summons.
Exemptions from Jury Service
You are not required to claim an exemption from jury service.
However, you may choose to be excused if you:
- Are over 70 years of age (You may also request a permanent age 70 exemption.);
- Have legal custody of a child younger than 12 years of age and your service on the jury requires leaving the child without adequate supervision;
- Are a student of a public or private secondary school;
- Are a person enrolled and in actual attendance at an institution of higher education;
- Are an officer or an employee of the senate, house of representatives, or any department, commission, board, office, or other agency in the legislative branch of government;
- Have served as a petit juror in the county during the 24-month period preceding the date you are required to appear for this summons. (Applies only to counties with a population of at least 200,000 unless the county uses a jury plan under § 62.011, Gov't Code, and the period authorized under § 62.011(b) exceeds two years.);
- Are the primary caretaker of a person who is unable to care for himself or herself (This exemption does not apply to health care workers.);
- Have been summoned for service in a county with a population of at least 250,000 and you have served as a petit juror in the county during the three year period preceding the date you are to appear for jury service. (This does not apply if the jury wheel has been reconstituted since your service as a petit juror.); or
- You are a member of the United States Military Forces serving on active duty and deployed to a location away from your home station and out of your county of residence.
(Texas Government Code § 62.106. Exemption from Jury Service)
You must follow the instructions on your jury summons or contact the judge to find out what you need to do to be exempted from jury service.
Exemption for Physical or Mental Impairments or Inability to Comprehend English
A district court judge may permanently or temporarily exempt from jury service a person with a physical or mental impairment or with an inability to comprehend or communicate in the English language that makes it impossible or very difficult to serve on a jury. You need to contact the judge or the court to be exempted on this basis.
(Texas Government Code § 62.109)
Excuse of Juror for Religious Holiday
A prospective juror must be released entirely or rescheduled if the juror is required to appear in court on a religious holy day that is observed by the juror. You need to contact the judge or the court to be excused on this basis.
(Texas Government Code § 62.112)
The judge may give you an opportunity to discuss any individual personal hardships that jury service may cause to you. The court has the discretion to hear any reasonable sworn excuse of a prospective juror and either release the juror from jury service or reschedule the juror's jury service for another day. However, the court may not excuse a juror for an economic reason unless each party of record is present and approves the release. Listen for the judge to give you instructions about when to come forward to discuss your need to be excused based on some hardship.
(Texas Government Code § 62.110)
What to Expect on Your First Day
When you report for jury service, you will likely find that there are well-trained court personnel available to assist you and to answer any questions that you may have concerning jury duty. You can also expect to receive a brief orientation in the courtroom or in the jury assembly room regarding jury service. Listen carefully and follow the instructions given by court personnel and the judge. With your cooperation and attention to detail, the jury selection process may run smoother and be completed faster.
Advice for your First Day of Service
- Be sure that you know where you are supposed to report. If you are unfamiliar with the courthouse and its surroundings you should carefully review the instructions that are included with summonses. You might also contact the judge or the district clerk's office or check the local web page for additional information.
- Your attire should show respect for the court. Because you may serve on a jury the first day you report to serve, you should wear clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of the court proceedings. Local judges may restrict certain attire, such as shorts, cutoff, sleeveless shirts, sandals, and hats. Also, you should dress comfortably because you may be in the courthouse for the entire day. You might also bring a light sweater or jacket in case the temperature in the courthouse is somewhat cold.
- Take advantage of any free parking offered to prospective jurors. Also, you might want to avoid parking in metered parking spaces because you do not know how long you will be in jury service.
- Bring money. Though the court or the county may provide parking or reimburse parking costs, you might have to pay them initially. Also, you may need money to pay for snacks, lunch, or pay phones.
- Because jury duty involves some waiting, bring something to read to help you pass the time.
- Be aware that you will likely be asked to shut off pagers and cellular phones before entering the jury room or courtroom.
Some courthouses may have additional accommodations for you, such as internet access, lap to stations, and reading. You will need to check with your local courthouse regarding special amenities.
To ensure the safety of everyone at the courthouse, expect to be screened through a metal detector and X-ray unit. Entering the courthouse with a prohibited weapon is against the law. Pointed items, such as pocket knives or knitting needles, are not permitted in the courthouse. Anything considered to be a weapon or that is deemed unacceptable by the security staff will be confiscated.
You will be paid by the county in an amount not less than $6.00 and not more than $50.00 per day or fraction of a day served. However, the Commissioners Court of a county may choose to reduce or eliminate the daily compensation for prospective jurors who attend court for only one day without actually serving on a jury.
The county may choose to provide additional forms of compensation or reimbursement, including:
- free public transportation
- mileage reimbursement;
- transportation cost reimbursement;
- free parking;
- child-care facilities; or
- free meals.
Your local court will provide you with information regarding the existence and extent of any of these programs.
Both you and other prospective jurors who report for jury service will be given an opportunity to voluntarily donate your juror pay to certain local or state charitable causes. When you report for jury service, you should receive or request a form that allows you to direct the county treasurer to donate your reimbursement for jury service to a designated charity or fund which should include:
- the Texas Crime Victim's Compensation Fund
- your county's Child Welfare Board
- a designated local family violence shelter; or
- any other program(s) approved by the commissioners court.
Rights and Responsibilities of Your Employer
Your employer is not required to pay you for any time that you missed from work due to jury service. However, your employer cannot fire you while you are fulfilling your civic duty.
An employer who terminates, threatens to terminate, penalizes, or threatens to penalize an employee because the employee performs jury duty is subject to sanctions for contempt of court and payment of damages to the employee.
Length of Duty
The length of jury service will vary considerably for summoned jurors. While the jury selection process may require your attendance for a day or a fraction of a day, jury duty generally lasts about one week. However, the majority, usually more than two-thirds, of all summoned jurors are NOT actually selected for service, therefore, their duty ends after a short time with the completion of the jury selection process. For those jurors who are selected to serve in a jury panel, the judge and the attorneys may be able to estimate how long that particular trial will last.
Unfortunately, prospective jurors who appear and participate in the jury selection process will spend a great deal of time waiting. Although the courts make every effort to avoid delays, they sometimes will occur. If a delay occurs while you are present for jury service, please try to be patient with the court staff. Rest assured that there is usually a valid reason for any delays and the judge is aware that you are waiting. Also, try to keep an open mind about your jury service and remember that you are playing an essential role in our justice system.
Rules of Juror Conduct in Civil Cases
(Supreme Court Rule of Civil Procedure 226a)
The judge will instruct you to adhere to the following basic rules:
- Do not mingle with nor talk to the lawyers, the witnesses, the parties, or any other person who might be connected with or interested in the case, except for casual greetings. They will have the same instructions and you will understand it when they do.
- Do not accept from, nor give to, any of those persons any favors however slight, such as rides, food, or refreshments.
- Do not discuss anything about this case, or even mention it to anyone whomsoever, including your wife or husband nor permit anyone to mention it in your hearing until you are discharged as jurors or excused form this case. If anyone attempts to discuss the case, report it to the judge at once.
- Do not even discuss this case among yourselves until after you have heard all of the evidence, the court's charge, the attorneys' arguments and until I have sent you to the jury room to consider your verdict.
- Do not make any investigation about the facts of this case. Occasionally, we have a juror who privately seeks out information about a case on trial. This is improper. All evidence must be presented in open court so that each side may question the witnesses and make proper objection. This avoids a trial based upon secret evidence. These rules apply to jurors the same as they apply to the parties and to me. If you know of, or learn anything about, this case except from the evidence admitted during the course of this trial, you should tell me about it at once. You have just taken an oath that you will render a verdict on the evidence submitted to you under the judge's rulings.
- Do not make personal inspections, observations, investigations, or experiments nor personally view premises, things or articles not produced in court. Do not let anyone else do any of these things for you.
- Do not tell other jurors your own personal experiences nor those of other persons, nor relate any special information. A juror may have special knowledge of matters such as business, technical or professional matters or he may have expert knowledge or opinions, or he may know what happened in this or some other lawsuit. To tell the other jurors any of this information is a violation of these instructions.
- Do not discuss or consider attorney's fees unless evidence about attorney's fees is admitted.
- Do not consider, discuss, nor speculate whether or not any party is or is not protected in whole or in part by insurance of any kind.
- Do not seek information contained in law books, dictionaries, public or private records or elsewhere, which is not admitted in evidence.
At the conclusion of all the evidence, the judge may give you a written charge that asks you some specific questions. Because you will need to consider all of the evidence admitted by the judge, it is important that you pay close attention to the evidence as it is presented at trial. You will not be asked, and you should not consider, whether one party or the other should win.
Note that jurors and others can be called upon to testify in open court about acts of jury misconduct. As a result, you need to follow all of the jury instructions given by the judge throughout the case very carefully.
Statutory Penalties for Non Compliance
Failure to Answer the Summons
A person who receives a summons for jury service and fails to answer the summons as directed by the summons, is subject to a contempt action that is punishable by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $1,000.
(Texas Gov't Code § 62.0141. Failure to Answer Jury Summons.)
Failure to Attend Court/Filing a False Exemption
- A juror who is lawfully notified to attend court is subject to a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 if that juror either:
- fails to attend court in obedience to the notice without a reasonable excuse; or
- files a false claim of exemption from jury service.
(Texas Gov't Code § 62.111. Penalty for Defaulting Jurors.)
If you have questions about your jury summons or jury duty, please contact the appropriate court or judge as indicated on the jury summons.
The information contained on this web site is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge or the court concerning any aspect of jury service. In the event of any conflicts, the instructions and procedures given to you by the judge or the court should be followed.