LAWRENCE COUNTY

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA
JURY SERVICES

LAWRENCE COUNTY
GOVERNMENT CENTER
430 COURT STREET
NEW CASTLE, PA. 16101
(724) 658-2541

Hours: 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
Mon - Fri

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Helen E. Jackson Lawrence County Jury Coordinator
Penny Kretzer Administrative Clerk

 

A Juror’s Guide to Jury Duty in Lawrence County

Introduction 

We are most pleased to welcome you as you prepare for jury service in the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County.  We want your stay to be as pleasant and as rewarding as possible.  This note has been prepared to provide you with information to better equip you to fulfill your obligations as a juror.

The word “obligations” was purposely used in the previous sentence, because each one of us, as citizens of this county, this state, and this country, do have an obligation to assure the continuation of the freedoms that we all enjoy.

Both the Constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guarantee each one of us the “right” to a trial by jury when certain of our legal interests and personal liberties are challenged.  Because we are guaranteed that “right,” we also are charged with the “obligation” to do our part to provide for our system of justice to continue.  Just as the rights we all enjoy apply to every one of us regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or economic status, so, too, does our obligation to serve as jurors. Hopefully, all citizens should be proud and honored to serve.

The Courts do certainly recognize that, even though jurors may be proud and honored to serve, service as a juror is a burden, because the time you give is time that is taken away from your personal lives and is, at the very least, an interruption of your business and personal lives.  Your valuable time and talents are appreciated by the Courts, the entire legal community and by your fellow citizens whose legal interests and liberties are at issue.

Jury service, while a responsibility of each of us, should also be viewed by you as your opportunity to view first hand and participate in the  American system of justice, and also, hopefully, to assist each of us in the Court system to make improvements to the operation of justice in our county.

The Court and the entire legal community wish to thank you for your service as a juror.  We want to make your service as interesting and rewarding as possible, and we look forward to hearing from you after you serve to improve our methods and treatment of those citizens who come after you to serve in this most important capacity.

 

PURPOSE OF THE JUROR’S GUIDE

This guide has been prepared to help you focus on your place within the system. It is also intended to provide you with general information concerning your experiences as a juror. It is also intended to correct or clarify misconceptions that may have been created by exposure to movies, television programming, media accounts or shared experiences from friends and family.  You will receive personal orientation with a judge, the Court Administrator and other Court personnel.

We strive to offer to litigants, or parties before the Court, the opportunity to select a jury which represents all cross-sections of our community.  Remember, the jury’s task is to make a determination of the truth, and all of our citizens are equipped with the ability to undertake that responsibility.

EXEMPTIONS FROM JURY DUTY

The law in Pennsylvania states that no one shall be exempt or excused from jury duty except:

(1) Persons in active service of the Armed Forces of the United States or of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

(2) Persons who have served on jury duty within three (3) years preceding their current summons for jury duty: however if the person served as a juror for fewer than three (3) days in one (1) year, the exemption period is reduced to one (1) year.

(3) Persons demonstrating to the Court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience may be either excused permanently or deferred to another time as the Court determines is necessary.

(4) Persons with hearing problems, also those with blindness, should accompany your completed summons with a proof letter from your doctor.  Amish persons are also exempt from Jury duty.

 

If you believe you fit into one of these 4 categories it will be necessary to write and mail your request to the Jury Service Coordinator along with your completed summons and doctor’s statement to be excused either permanently or temporarily. They must arrive at the Jury Service Office one week prior to the date you are scheduled to come to the Court House for Jury Duty.   Otherwise you will be required to come to the Courthouse on the appointed day and time and talk with the judge.  You are to fill out the summons completely, sign it and date it and return it to the Jury Service Office in the envelope provided no later than one week prior to your jury date.  Failure to do so could lead to heavy fines.

WHEN RECEIVING A SUMMONS TO APPEAR

When you are summoned to appear for jury duty, you will find written instructions on the top front portion and also on the upper back portion of your summons.   This will include appropriate dress and shoe information and also what you will be allowed to bring with you while serving on Jury duty. 

You will also be instructed to call the Jury Service line after 4:00 P.M. on the Thursday prior to your Jury date.  The number to call is 724 656 2480 and upon the call being answered by an automated voice message you will be asked to place your juror number in the system. The system will tell you either “to report” or “do not report.”  If you do not have a touch tone phone then you will call the 724 656 1933 number and leave a message, with your name and jury number and your phone number where you can be reached.  You will be called back during the next business day.  We suggest that you call after 7:00 P.M. or later as many people are trying to call at the earlier hour and you will experience a busy signal.

REPORTING FOR JURY DUTY

Persons reporting for Jury Duty must bring with them a photo I.D. as you will be requested to prove your identity.  You will also need to bring with you your identity badge, which is found in the upper right hand corner of your summons.

You should allow yourself ample time to park and enter the court house and go through its security points. Two lots are provided for parking.  One directly in front of the court house entrance and one across the street next to the church, now called Gettings Center.  Formerly the 2nd Presbyterian Church.

Arriving at the Court House you will proceed to the third (3) floor where you will be met and directed to go to the Jurors Holding Room.  Handicapped access is available and is marked for your convenience.  The courthouse has a “no smoking” policy and that is inside the courthouse and outside on the grounds. A “no weapons” policy is also strictly enforced.

Proper attire or dress is required for Court.   It is suggested that you dress as you would to go for an important job interview.  Short, t-shirts, tank tops and sports clothing are never considered appropriate dress. Flip-flops are not allowed either.

Upon arriving at the Jury Holding Room, you will be registered in and at this time you will wear the badge that you brought with you on the outside of your clothing.  You will be required to wear your badge at all time when you are in the Courthouse.   You will be seated in the holding room with all other jurors. 

You will be administered an oath to faithfully perform your duties and a short orientation will be performed.  There will be coffee and snacks in the holding room area and TV will help fill in with some important information to aid you in your jury duties.

Please feel free to bring a book, magazine, computer or other forms of entertainment if you desire, keeping in mind that you may be in the holding room  with up to 125 other jurors, and their peace of mind and security are as important as your own.  Do not bring equipment or materials that others may find offensive.

Computers, cell phones and other electronic devices are not permitted in the courtrooms.  Finally should you have a need for anything while you are with us, please feel free to ask the Court staff, which will be available for your needs during your entire stay with us at the Courthouse.

You will remain in the Jury Holding Room until prospective jurors are actually called to a Courtroom for jury selection.  This is necessary so that there can be no contact between those called for jury duty and the litigants, witnesses and attorneys who will be involved in cases to be heard.

You will be permitted to leave the area for lunch hour.  The time is usually 12:00 noon to 1:30 P.M.  There are vending machines on the first floor of the courthouse and restaurants near- by.  Some may wish to bring their own lunches and just be aware that there is no refrigeration at the courthouse.  Coffee, tea and water are provided in the Jury Holding Room.

TWO TYPES OF CASES TO BE HEARD

Jurors will hear either Civil or Criminal cases.  A civil case is one in which one or more individuals files suit against other individuals, company or government body.  The party filing the suit is often referred to as the Plaintiff, and the party defending the suit is referred to as the Defendant.

In a civil case, the jury is called upon to determine whether or not the plaintiff is entitled to monetary damages from the defendant, and, if so, what the appropriate amount of monetary damages is.

In criminal case, the Lawrence County District Attorney, or sometimes the Pennsylvania Attorney General, through one or more of their assistants, prosecute a case against an individual(s) or company(s) that are accused of one or more crimes.  The District Attorney or Attorney General who is bringing the charges is referred to as the prosecutor.  The person’(s) or company(s) is called the Defendant.

In a criminal case, the jury is called upon to determine whether or not the prosecutor has proven the defendant guilty of one or more crimes.  Except for cases involving first degree murder, jurors are not requested to fix punishment.

JURY SELECTION

Total number of people summoned to appear on a given day is known as the “jury pool.”  From the “jury pool,” a  “panel” is then sent to a Courtroom for the selection process.  The purpose of the selection process is to arrive at a final jury consisting of 12 people who will be fair and impartial while deciding the facts delivered from the evidence presented and applying the law as instructed by the judge.  Alternate jurors, (usually 2) may also be chosen to avoid having to delay or stop a trial in the vent that one of the original 12 jurors becomes unavailable, for any reason to complete the trial.

During the selection process, the randomly selected jurors who are brought to the Courtroom (the “panel”) will be questioned by the judge and/ or the attorneys involved in the case to be heard.  The reason the judge and / or attorneys ask the questions is so that a fair and impartial jury of 12 people can be selected.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance that all members of the jury panel “speak the truth” when answering all questions.

THE ROLE OF THE JUROR

Listen carefully to all evidence presented during the trial.

During deliberations, discuss the evidence with fellow jurors and decide what the facts are, based upon which witnesses and evidence you believe.

-         Apply the law, as explained by the judge, to the facts, as determined by you.

-         Do no independent research or investigation.

-         Determine the money damages in some civil cases.

-         In criminal cases, decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty.

-         Arrive at a verdict.

 

THE ROLE OF THE JUDGE

Make sure that all parties have a fair opportunity to present their case.

Make sure the trial process proceeds in a proper manner.

Instruct the jury on the applicable law.

Decide the punishment in most criminal cases.

 

THE TRIAL PROCESS

-         The jury is selected by the attorneys for both parties.

-         The Jury is sworn in.

-         The Jury receives opening instructions by the trial judge.

-         Opening Statements are presented by the Attorneys.

-         Evidence is presented.

-         Closing Arguments are conducted by attorneys for each party.

-         The trial judge charges or instructs the jury on the applicable law.

-         The jury deliberates.

-         The jury reaches and renders its verdict.

-         The jury is dismissed by the Court. 

 

JURY DELIBERATIONS                                                     

 The judge explains the law relevant to the case and provides guidance on procedures to be followed in jury deliberations.  One of the first things the jury does during deliberations is to choose a foreperson.  The foreperson should make sure each juror has a chance to speak; that each juror’s opinion is treated with respect; that the jury does not rush to come to a verdict; that jurors carefully listen to one another; and that they return a fair and impartial verdict based upon the facts of the case.

In criminal cases, the jury’s verdict must be unanimous.  In civil cases, 5/6 of the jurors must be in agreement to return a verdict.

 AFTER THE JURY REACHES A VERDICT

 Once a jury reaches a verdict, the foreperson informs the court that the jury has reached a verdict, the judge calls everyone back to the Courtroom.  The verdict will then be announced by the foreperson.  After the verdict is announced and recorded, the jury has completed its duties and is discharged.

After discharge, jurors are permitted, but not required to talk about the case.  Jurors are not permitted, however, to disclose what another juror said in the jury room.  If anyone attempts to communicate with a juror regarding his or her role as juror in a way that one feels is improper, the juror should report the incident to the Court as soon as possible.

 

QUESTIONS

 Will I be paid for service as a juror?  Yes, $9.00 per day for the first three days and $25.00 per day thereafter, and mileage for transportation to and from the courthouse.  These fees are set by the State Legislature.

 What if  my employer doesn’t allow me to serve?   The law prohibits any employer from preventing an employee to serve as a juror.  The law also prohibits an employer from depriving a juror of benefits because of jury service, such as requiring you to use vacation time to serve.

 Is it possible to appear for jury service and not sit on a jury?  Yes, more people are called than actually serve, because it is not always possible to estimate accurately the number of jurors who will be needed to serve each day.

 Is my employer required to pay me while I serve as a juror? If you work for the government, your employer must pay you.  If you work in the private sector, your employer does not have to pay you.

 How long does the average trial take?  Criminal trials do not usually last longer than two to three days.  Generally, civil trails do not last longer than three to four days.  However, some trials may last longer.

 The Lawrence County Court Administrator will be issuing checks to jurors immediately upon completion of jury duty.  This process will help save money by not having to mail the checks to jurors and will also save time so that jurors won’t have to wait for their checks.  As an added feature, any juror, that so chooses, may cash their check at the Lawrence County Treasurer’s Office that day.

 Thank you for serving as a future juror.
 

  With the cooperation of the Lawrence County Court System, the Lawrence County Commissioners, the Lawrence County Controller, and the Lawrence County Treasurer, effective January 2009, the Lawrence County Court Administration will be issuing checks to jurors that they will be able to receive, in most cases, immediately upon completion of jury duty. This process will help save money by not having to mail the checks to jurors and will also save time so that jurors won't have to wait for their checks. As an added feature, any juror, that so chooses, may cash their check at the Lawrence County Treasurer's Office. Any questions should be directed to 724.656.2123.

 

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