Legal assistance tip of the week: Jury Duty

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- "I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." -Thomas Jefferson

Trial by jury is one of the fundamental safeguards of our liberties. It is a right protected by both the United States Constitution and the California Constitution. At its core, jury trials ensure that a defendant's guilt or innocence is determined by an impartial group of their peers. However, the nature of military service may make it difficult to fulfill this important civic duty or possibly disqualify you from service.

The California Code of Civil Procedure provides that certain individuals are not eligible or qualified to be prospective trial jurors. Section 203(a) exempts those that are not residents of the jurisdiction wherein they are summoned to serve. This provision is not unique to California. If you are summoned by a court to serve on a jury, make sure that you know the eligibility requirements for that jurisdiction because you may be disqualified. Residency is a very common disqualifying factor for active duty military members that move frequently. For instance, I was summoned to serve on a jury in my hometown where I am no longer a resident and was therefore disqualified based on that jurisdiction's requirements.

In addition to local jurisdictional requirements, active duty Air Force members may also be exempted from jury service under the provisions of Title 10 of the United States Code Section 982. Under this statute and Department of Defense Directive 5525.8, which implements it, all general officers, commanders, operating forces personnel in training, and personnel stationed outside the United States are categorically exempt from serving on state or local juries. Additionally, these provisions more generally exempts military members when jury service unreasonably interferes with their military duties or when it would adversely affect the readiness of a unit, command, or activity to which the member is assigned.

If you think you are eligible based on these requirements you must inform your immediate commander. Individuals categorically exempt need to notify their immediate commander and they or a designee will notify the issuing state or local official. Those meeting the general exception must have their immediate commander determine if the exception applies to them. After making this determination, the commander must forward the request to the special court-martial convening authority for final approval.

For more information, please contact the Base Legal Office at (661) 277-4310. Legal assistance attorneys are available on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m, and on Tuesday and Thursday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Paralegals can provide power-of-attorney and notary services Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and on Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.