Information for Jurors
What to Expect When You Come to Court for Jury Duty
Qualification questionnaires for jury-pool selection in Mason County are mailed annually, approximately midyear, to the number of prospective jurors that is estimated will be required for the period September 1 through August 31. Persons who receive the questionnaire are randomly selected, by a computer-generated formula, from the names of Mason County residents who have a driver’s license or ID card issued by the Secretary of State.1
The questionnaires are then processed by the Mason County Jury Commission to determine each individual’s eligibility to serve; however, because of the random nature of the jury-selection process, all persons deemed eligible will not necessarily be summoned to appear for a scheduled jury trial, and there are times that jurors who are summoned to trial are not ever called upon, or there are jurors who appear for trial whose names are called but are then excused from service.
Nonetheless, your participation is so important that failure to return the completed questionnaire to the Mason County Clerk’s office by the date specified, or failure to appear when summoned for a jury trial, could subject you to further proceedings for contempt of court.
122,871 Mason County residents, as reported by Lyla McClelland, Chairperson, Mason County Jury Commission, in a May 31, 2019, letter to the editor of the Ludington Daily News titled “Jury Questionnaires Heading to Mail Boxes.”
Jury duty is one of the most serious duties that citizens of a free society are asked to perform. Our system of self-government could not exist without it. The right to a jury trial is an ancient tradition and is part of our democracy’s heritage.
Learning about and participating in our system of justice is a rewarding experience; and for most of you, it is likely a new experience as well. New experiences, even ones you look forward to, sometimes make you feel apprehensive, especially when you don’t know what to expect. The information on this page will help get your juror experience off to a good start.
Preparation You Can Do before You Come to Court
- Read your jury summons carefully. It will answer many basic questions about when and where you need to report, the compensation you are permitted by statute to be paid, and how to call in for after-hours instructions.
- As indicated on your summons, give your employer sufficient notice that you have been called to court as a prospective juror. (At the end of your service, you can request an excuse to give to your employer as proof of your attendance.)
- No matter the season, our historic courthouse is subject to temperature fluctuations. Bring or wear clothing you can put on or take off so you can stay comfortable throughout the day. There is no dress code for jurors, but you should wear clothing that is clean, comfortable, neat appearing, and free from any offensive or provocative language or images. In other words, choose apparel that is modest and appropriate for the courtroom; is befitting of your important role; and shows respect for the judge, the parties involved, and your fellow jurors.
- No food or drink is permitted to be consumed while you are seated in the gallery of the courtroom as an audience member, except for medical necessity, such as for controlling blood sugar; however, if you would like a light refreshment when you are excused from the courtroom on recesses, pack a light snack, bottled water, or nonalcoholic beverage. There are also drinking fountains on each floor of the courthouse. (If you are selected to serve on the jury, the judge may allow you to bring other beverages, foodstuffs, or items such as books and magazines to have with you in the jury room. Brewed coffee will be provided. The jury room is located at the end of a secure hallway and is off limits except to members of the jury, so you may leave your outerware and personal effects in it.)
- Plan to arrive a few minutes early. Allow enough time to travel in inclement weather or high-volume traffic, to find a parking place, to make your way to the second floor of the courthouse, and to be checked in by the jury coordinator. If you are delayed by accident, illness, or some other extenuating circumstance beyond your control that prevents you from arriving on time, call the telephone number on your jury summons. Because your attendance at court for a trial is so important, you could be subject to a punitive action, such as contempt of court, if you do not come to court and do not have a good reason for failing to appear.
What to do When You Arrive at Court
- Look for the jury coordinator to greet you in front of the double doors of the main courtroom, room No. 204, which is to your left as you exit the elevator on Floor 2. The jury coordinator will check you in and direct you to a seat in the courtroom. Rather than telling the jury coordinator about any concerns you may have about your ability to serve, wait to tell them to the judge, who will give you an opportunity to do so early on in the proceedings.
- There is no public-address system in the courtroom, and the number of people in it will make it harder to hear. If you would like to use a hearing-assist device, ask either the jury coordinator or the clerk to give you one before the trial starts. If you need other special accommodations, contact the court accessibility coordinator. Visit the court accessibility page for more information.
- In preparation for the judge to take the bench, remove your sunglasses, unless you are medically required to wear them. All persons must also remove their hats or other head coverings unless being worn for religious or medical reasons.
- Completely turn off—not just silence—your cellphone and other devices while in the courtroom. Cellphones that interrupt the proceedings may be confiscated at the judge’s discretion.
How to Maintain Proper Courtroom Decorum
- You may speak quietly amongst yourselves before the trial begins; but after the trial starts, you must be quiet unless you are the one being spoken to. If you have something important to say, raise your hand and wait to be recognized by the judge before speaking.
- Be cautious when you enter or exit the courtroom through the swinging doors in case there are persons standing on the other side of them and so that the doors do not create additional noise as they continue to swing.
- It is customary to stand for the finder of fact. This means that you stand when the judge enters or exits the courtroom. A bailiff or court official will command, “All rise.” After the jury is impaneled, it is the finder of fact, and the judge and all others in the courtroom will stand when the jury enters or exits the courtroom. If you are selected as a juror, when the jury is called back into the courtroom after a recess, you may immediately sit down while your fellow jurors do the same and while the judge and all others in the courtroom remain standing until you are all seated.
- It is not necessary to use a title when you speak directly to the judge; but if you do, you may say “Your Honor” or “Judge,” with or without the judge’s last name; or you may use the courtesy titles “ma’am” or “sir.” Do not use the judge’s first name or the titles “miss,” “missis,” or “mister.”
What You Need to Know Now about Trial Procedure
- The judge will explain the legal principles you will need to know and the procedure that will be followed during the trial. You will be given a written copy of the instructions the judge gives you. When jury selection begins, the clerk will call names randomly, and those jurors will take their seats in the jury box. Then the lawyers and/or the judge will ask questions of the jurors who were called. The questioning is called voir dire, a term that means “to speak the truth,” and it is done to determine each juror’s suitability to serve in the particular case being tried.
- The judge will also tell you that an electronic recording is being made of everything said in the courtroom. What you say is an important part of the record, so you should wait for the questioner to finish before you begin speaking and then you should project your voice so it can be recorded and so everyone in the courtroom can hear you. To help make the record clear, say “yes” or “no” if appropriate rather than nodding or shaking your head or saying “uh huh” or “uh-uh.” Do not chew gum when you speak.
- The selection process can take some time, and some activities that move the trial forward happen out of your presence, so try to be patient. The judge will take a break at reasonable intervals. If you have an urgent need, raise your hand and wait to be recognized by the judge before you ask to attend to that need.
- If you are selected to serve on the jury, you will be given an opportunity to contact your family, employer, and/or child- or elder-care provider to tell them that you have been selected as a juror; however, you may not tell them anything at all about the case that is being tried.
- The judge will instruct you about other restrictions that apply when you are not in the courtroom. Before the jury has been sworn in to commence deliberations, the judge may allow you to go about your own business, depending on the length of the break and the reason for it. During deliberations, accommodations will be made for your comfort, including meals, beverages, and breaks.
Now that you know what to expect, we hope any concerns you may have had about jury service have been lessened. Whether you are selected to serve, are called upon and excused, or participate in the process by simply observing it, fulfilling your legal and civic obligation is an educational and enriching experience that others will enjoy hearing about when your service has ended. And if you or someone you know ever exercises their right to a jury trial, you too will want jurors who respect our judicial process by coming to court when summoned, remaining attentive during the proceedings, and being diligent and courteous during deliberations.