Reporting Jason DeRusha
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) - It is the civic duty that so many of us try to avoid. Being summoned to appear on a jury excites some, horrifies others, and mystifies many. How do they decide who gets called to jury duty?
“I have resided in St. Paul since the late 1970s, always in possession of a driver’s license, telephone in my name, continuously a registered voter, just wonder why I have NEVER been called even to be considered for the jury pools,” emailed Janet Warwick from St. Paul.
“How is it that some people are picked more than once and some are never picked?” asked Deidra Dickson from Robbinsdale.
We took their questions to Kathie LaCosse, the jury coordinator for the Minnesota state court system.
“It’s really a random draw,” LaCosse said.
In Minnesota, every year a master juror list is assembled by combining three lists: the voter registration list, the driver’s license list, and the Minnesota state ID list. Those lists are merged together, and duplicate names are eliminated – so you’re only on the list one time.
The list is updated each year in January, so buying a house or renewing your driver’s license does not affect your standing.
And not registering to vote won’t get you out of jury duty.
“There are only four states that only use the voter registration list. Almost every state uses a merged list,” LaCosse said.
She said of the 4.2 million Minnesotans estimated to be age 18 or older, about 3.6 million Minnesotans are on the master juror list. About 180,000 get called for jury duty every year throughout the state. So overall, your odds of getting jury duty are 1 in 20.
“You’re more likely to be called in smaller counties with 10,000 people on the list, and 1,000 people called every year,” she said.
In Hennepin County there are 900,000 on the jury list, and according to the state 30,000 get called, so Hennepin County residents have a 1 in 30 chance of being called for jury duty.
Everyone’s odds are the same every year, regardless of whether you’ve served before.
“We completely load a brand new source list every year,” LaCosse said.
There are very few automatic exemptions from jury duty in Minnesota. Even if Gov. Mark Dayton were called, he’d have to serve, according to LaCosse.
Judges are the only job classification automatically banned from jury duty. To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen, a resident of the county, at least 18-years-old, able to communicate in English, and if you’re a convicted felon, you have to have had your civil rights restored.
If you get called and serve on a jury, you can’t serve again for four years. However, you stay on the list.
“You might get called, but we would excuse you from jury service,” LaCosse said.
If you’re a student in class, on vacation, or can’t find child care, you can request a postponement one time – but only up to 9 months.