Jurors must be:
- citizens of the United States
- a resident of Davidson County for at least 12 months
- 18 years of age or older
- are not citizens of the United States
- do not live in Davidson County or have not for at least 12 months
- are under the age of 18
- have been convicted or pled guilty to any felony offense, perjury or subornation of perjury
Some jurors may be temporarily excused if the juror:
- can prove a financial hardship (tax return)
- can prove a medical condition or disability (medical statement)
- has served on jury duty within the last two years
WHAT TO BRING WITH YOU
Unfortunately you will likely have to spend some time waiting in the Jury Assembly Room before being seated on a jury panel. Reading material is available to help pass the time but you may want to bring your own books or magazines. You may also bring paperwork or laptop computers for use in the Jury Assembly Room. While you are in court you will not be permitted to use either reading material or your computer. If you bring a cell phone, you must turn it off before entering a courtroom.
LENGTH OF SERVICE
If you are selected for jury service in Davidson County your obligation is for one week or the duration of the trial you are seated on. Trials start on Monday and sometimes on Tuesday. Most trials last less than a week. Occasionally trials will carry over into the next week and, rarely, a trial will last several weeks. When you are selected to go to court, opportunities are given to tell the judge that you have a conflict. If you get seated on a case, you will be released about 4:30pm or when your case is over. If you serve on jury duty for less than three hours, you are expected to return to work on that day.
JUROR PAY AND EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITY:
T. C. A. § 22-4-106
§ 22-4-106. Employment; excused absence; compensation; violation
(a)(1) Upon receiving a summons to report for jury duty, any employee shall, on the next day the employee is engaged in the employee’s employment, exhibit the summons to the employee’s immediate superior, and the employer shall thereupon excuse the employee from employment for each day the employee’s service as a juror in any court of the United States or this state exceeds three (3) hours.
(2) If an employee summoned for jury duty is working a night shift or is working during hours preceding those in which court is normally held, the employee shall also be excused from employment as provided by this section for the shift immediately preceding the employee’s first day of service. After the first day of service, when the person’s responsibility for jury duty exceeds three (3) hours during a day, the person whose circumstances fall within the parameters of this subdivision (a)(2) shall be excused from the person’s next scheduled work period occurring within twenty-four (24) hours of that day of jury service. Any question concerning the application of this subdivision (a)(2) to a particular work shift or shifts shall be conclusively resolved by the trial judge of the court to which the employee has been summoned.
(b) Notwithstanding the excused absence as provided in subsection (a), the employee shall be entitled to the employee’s usual compensation received from such employment; however, the employer has the discretion to deduct the amount of the fee or compensation the employee receives for serving as a juror. Moreover, no employer shall be required to compensate an employee for more time than was actually spent serving and traveling to and from jury duty. If an employer employs less than five (5) people on a regular basis or if the juror has been employed by an employer on a temporary basis for less than six (6) months, the employer is not required to compensate the juror during the period of jury service pursuant to this section.
(c) It is the duty of all persons paying jurors their fee or compensation for jury service to issue to each juror a statement showing the daily fee or compensation and the total amount of fees or compensation received by the juror. The person also shall provide a juror with a statement showing the number of hours the juror spent serving each day if the juror or juror’s employer requests such a statement prior to the service at issue.
(d)(1) No employer shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against an employee for serving on jury duty if the employee, prior to taking time off, gives the required notice pursuant to subsection (a).
(2)(A) Any employee who is discharged, demoted or suspended because the employee has taken time off to serve on jury duty is entitled to reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits caused by such acts of the employer.
(B) Any employer who willfully refuses to rehire or otherwise restore an employee or former employee commits a Class A misdemeanor.
(e) Any employer who violates this section commits a Class A misdemeanor.
(f) For the purposes of this section, “employer” includes, but is not limited to, the state of Tennessee or any local government.
You may park for free at the Public Square Parking facility located at 101 James Robertson Parkway beside the Historic Metro Courthouse. Click here for a map.This is an underground parking facility. Do NOT park in the Public Square Garage at 4th and Deadrick. If you park in the wrong garage you will be responsible for the fee. When you check in for jury duty, you will be given a parking voucher to give the attendant. You will only receive one parking voucher per day.
Security screening is heavily enforced at all Davidson County courthouses. To expedite the screening process we ask that you limit the amount of items that you bring with you during jury duty. Also, allow extra time to get through the security line. Please do not bring any weapons, mace, pepper spray, knives, forks, scissors, knitting needles or nail files. Basically, do not bring anything that can be considered a weapon.
REQUEST TO BE EXCUSED/POSTPONED
If you believe that you qualify for an exemption, you must submit your request in writing on your Jury Summons or click here to complete online. ANSWER EACH QUESTION UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY. Inconvenience or work hardships are not adequate reasons to be excused from jury duty. However you may request to be postponed to a later date. You must also include a letter from your doctor if you are requesting to be excused for a medical reason. If you do not receive further notice, your request to be excused has been granted. If you no longer have your Jury Summons, you may mail your request to:
P.O. Box 196310
Nashville, TN 37219-6310
If you need to be postponed, please list two (2) separate weeks in which you could serve. If your request is granted, you will receive confirmation and instructions by mail.
State law prohibits smoking in all parts of the courthouse. Smoking is only permitted outside the building. However, because of time limitations there will not always be opportunities to go outside.
TWO KINDS OF CASES-CIVIL AND CRIMINAL
A civil case usually involves a claim for money damages or some claim with respect to property. The party filing the case is called the plaintiff. The suit is started by the filing with the Circuit Court Clerk of the written claim of the plaintiff, called the Complaint. The defendant, or party who is being sued, responds to the Complaint by filing an Answer. In the Answer, the defendant either admits or denies the claims made by the plaintiff. In some instances, the defendant may make a claim against the plaintiff, called a counterclaim, or against one of the defendants, called a cross-claim. All of these papers together are called the pleadings. A juror should always remember that these pleadings are merely written claims of the parties and are not evidence.
A criminal case is brought in the name of, and by, the State of Tennessee against a person, the defendant, charged with breaking the law. The attorney who represents the state is called the prosecutor. The case is ordinarily started by the grand jury of a county and the written charge or accusation that is brought against the defendant is called an indictment. The indictment merely describes the crime, which the defendant is accused of committing. The indictment is not evidence. Also, the fact that the grand jury has brought an indictment against a defendant should not be considered as evidence that the accused is guilty. The accused is not required to make a written answer to the indictment. The defendant may plead guilty or not guilty and go to trial.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON YOUR FIRST DAY OF JURY DUTY
You need to report by 8:30am to the Jury Assembly Room (Suite 1120 on the ground floor) at the Justice A.A. Birch Building. Please bring the upper section of your summons with you if possible. We will provide you with a juror badge and a parking pass. You will watch the Jury Orientation Video and we will answer all of your questions.
At approximately 9:00am a trial judge will request a panel of prospective jurors. The judge will normally request a group of thirty jurors. A court officer will then escort the panel to the courtroom. Out of the panel of jurors, the attorneys involved will select a jury. If you get seated on a case you will continue to report until that case is over. If you get excused from a case you need to report back to the Jury Assembly Room.
The first step in the actual trial of a jury case is the selection from the jury panel of the number of jurors required to try the case. It is sometimes six but most often twelve. At the beginning of this process, there are usually thirty prospective jurors present in the courtroom.
The juror selection process in any particular case usually begins with a brief explanation by the judge of the general nature of the case and the names of the parties and the attorneys.
The judge begins the procedure by questioning the members of the jury panel so as to determine each member’s ability to serve as a juror in that particular case. Some questions may be directed to all of the jurors at once while others may be directed to individual jurors. The types of questions asked are determined by the judge, with suggestions from the attorneys representing the parties. The judge, for example, may inquire whether any of the jurors have any knowledge of the case.
The lawyers in the case will also have the right to ask additional questions of the jurors. This questioning process is called “voir dire”, is designed to allow the lawyers to determine whether each juror can serve fairly and impartially in the case. Voir dire also provides the attorneys with the opportunity to become acquainted with the prospective jurors.
If you have never before served as a juror, it may seem that some of the questions are personal but it is not intended that any question should embarrass or reflect negatively on a juror in any way. Lawyers have a duty to their clients to ask those questions, which they feel, will assist them in deciding which jurors to select.
After questioning, a juror may be excused or challenged from sitting on a particular case. There are two (2) kinds of challenges: a challenge “for cause” and a peremptory challenge.
Whenever the questioning of a juror discloses some reason why the juror might not be objective or unbiased in the case (i.e. if the juror was related to or employed by one of the parties), that juror may be excused “for cause”. This excuse for cause may be on the judge’s initiative or upon motion by one of the parties’ attorneys. There is no limit to the number of jurors who may be excused for cause.
After voir dire has been concluded and there are no further challenges for cause by either attorney, the attorneys may finally choose their jury by exercising a certain number of jurors without having to show a reason. A juror who is challenged and thereby excused for service should not be offended, as each attorney as a different idea as to the type of juror who would be most beneficial to the trial of the case.
When the jury has been selected and the required number of jurors are in the jury box, the jurors are sworn to try the case. This is called “empanelling” the jury.
The opening statement is made, first by the attorney for the plaintiff (or prosecution, in a criminal case), then by the attorney for the defense. The purpose of the opening statement is to outline to the jury the facts of the case and what each side will attempt to establish through the presentation of evidence. This is only an explanation of what each side claims.
Presentation of Evidence
After both sides have been given the opportunity to make opening statements, the trial moves to the stage in which evidence is presented by each side. The plaintiff (or prosecutor, in a criminal case) first presents all the evidence, which supports the plaintiff’s contentions. Once the plaintiff has presented all of his or her proof, then the defendant may present evidence. It is important to remember in a criminal trial that the defendant has a constitutional right not to testify and that you may not be influenced by a criminal defendant’s decision not to testify. Finally, the plaintiff may then put on more evidence to disprove or explain some evidence presented by the defendant.
Evidence may be in the form of a written document, an object, a photograph or an x-ray. Some pieces of evidence are called exhibits. In a civil trial, this physical evidence may be taken with you to the jury room and may be considered in your deliberations.
Most evidence is presented in the form of spoken testimony of witnesses who have taken an oath to tell the truth. The attorney who has called the witness asks questions of that witness first. This questioning is called direct examination. After direct examination is concluded, the lawyer for the opposing party may ask questions of the witness, or cross-examine the witness. After cross-examination, the lawyer who called the witness has a final opportunity to ask questions of the witness. This is called re-direct examination.
In some instances, an important witness cannot be present to testify in court. If such a witness has previously given testimony under oath and that testimony was written down, this testimony can be read into evidence. Such testimony, called a deposition, should be treated as though the witness was actually testifying in court.
From time to time during a trial, you may hear the attorney’s make what are known as “objections”. Objections may be made for several reasons, including objections to the conduct of the parties, to the conduct of the attorney’s, to the form of the questions asked during the examination of a witness or the introduction of evidence. If the objection is deemed improper or not well-founded, the judge will “over-rule” it and allow the proceedings to continue and the evidence to be introduced. If, on the other hand, the judge finds the objection to be valid and proper, the objection may be “sustained”, there by discontinuing that conduct or questioning and prohibiting the introduction of the evidence in question.
Under the rules of law governing the introduction and admission of evidence, a lawyer has the right to object to the introduction of any evidence which he or she believes is not proper. The judge is the sole authority on what evidence is proper. Since the evidence may by excluded, the jury is usually not allowed to hear arguments as to admissibility. Thus, the judge may send the jury out of the courtroom to allow the attorneys to argue whether the evidence should be admitted or not. Sometimes evidence gets before the jury before the attorney has a chance to object. The judge may order the jury to disregard such evidence completely. If so ordered, the jury must disregard the evidence and not consider it as evidence.
After both sides have had an opportunity to present their evidence and have both “rested” their cases, they are given a chance to make final or closing arguments to the jury. The plaintiff’s attorney (or prosecutor, in a criminal case) will argue first, followed by the attorney for the defense. Both sides will sum up the evidence and testimony and try to persuade the jury to find in favor of their respective clients. These arguments, like the opening statements, should be listened to attentively but should not be considered as evidence in themselves.
At the end of the final arguments by the lawyers, the judge will instruct you on the law that applies in the case and must apply that law to the facts as you find them in arriving at your verdict. You are bound under your oath to give full effect to the law as the judge states it to you. You must pay close attention to his or her instructions.
Following the reading of the jury instructions or charge by the judge, the court officer will escort the jury to the jury room to conduct deliberations. The jury must first elect a foreperson who will preside during the deliberations. The foreperson’s duty to see that discussions are carried on in a free and orderly manner, that the matters and issues submitted for the jury’s decision are fully and freely discussed and that every juror is given an opportunity to express himself or herself.
In a civil trial, after you retire to the jury room, you are entitled to have all exhibits brought to you.
If you have a question for the judge, or need to be re-instructed on the law, please write it out and hand it to the court officer who will present it to the judge. The judge will then take the appropriate action to either answer your question or to notify you that the question cannot be answered and explain why the question cannot be answered.
You should not submit questions to the judge without giving them careful consideration. Questions from the jury to the judge can be answered only by returning the jury to the courtroom and resuming court. The procedure may require considerable time but is justifiable if you seriously believe it to be necessary or helpful to you in discharging your duty.
In weighing evidence, an important distinction between civil and criminal case is the degree of proof required to sustain an allegation. In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed to be innocent, and, to be convicted, must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, the party who has made an affirmative allegation against another party must prove that allegation by a preponderance of evidence to support a finding in his or her favor on that allegation. In each case, the judge will carefully explain to you the degree of proof required to support particular findings and you should pay the same careful attention to instructions on this subject as you are required to pay to all other instructions.
Quite often, differences of opinion arise among the jurors in the jury room. When this occurs, each juror should express his or her opinions and reasons therefore. By the process of careful and thorough reasoning, it is generally possible for jurors to reach a verdict. As a juror, you should not hesitate to change your mind when there is good reason for doing so. If, however you have a definite opinion on a question, you should not change that opinion unless conscientiously moved to do so as a result of the deliberations, your consideration of the views of your colleagues, and your own further thought on the matter.
It would be wrong for a juror to refuse to listen to the arguments and opinions of the other jurors or to deny the right of another juror to express his or her opinion. All jurors should deliberate and vote on each issue to be decided.
RULES TO REMEMBER DURING THE TRIAL
After you are selected as a juror on a case, you should observe the following rules:
- Please do not be late for court. If you are late, a number of persons may by inconvenienced, including your fellow jurors. Should you be delayed, please call the court to which you are assigned to let them know.
- Please do not wear inappropriate clothing. See dress code policy.
- Common courtesy and politeness are safe guides as to how jurors should act. No juror shall be permitted to read a newspaper or magazine in the courtroom. Nor should a juror talk to another juror in the courtroom during the trial. Please do not chew gum in the courtroom.
- Always sit in the same seat in the jury box. This enables the judge, the clerk and the lawyers to identify you more easily.
- Listen to every question and answer. Since you must decide the case based on the evidence, you should hear every question asked and every answer given. If you do not hear some of the evidence for any reason, ask to have it repeated.
- Do not talk about the case to anyone, even other jurors, until the judge sends you to the jury deliberation room to decide the case. You should not permit anyone to talk to you, or talk in your presence, about the case. If anyone talks to you about the case or attempts to influence you as a juror, report it to the court officer immediately.
- Do not be an amateur detective. Since the only evidence you can consider is that which is presented in court, you are not allowed to make an independent investigation, or to visit any of the places involved in the case.
- Let the lawyers and the judge ask the questions. Although you may want to question a witness, there are practical reasons why such a practice is discouraged. By taking such a active part in the trial, a juror may find himself or herself unconsciously led to being in a position of being an advocate for one of the parties, thereby destroying the ability to render an impartial verdict.
- Your duty is to apply the law, which will be given to you by the judge, to the facts in the case. You are expected to listen carefully to the proof, disregard anything which the judge instructs you not to consider and arrive at an understanding as to why the events which are the subject of the lawsuit may have occurred. Then, you are to listen carefully to the instructions given to you by the judge at then end of the trial and apply the law to the facts as you find them.