Instead call 510-891-6031 or email [email protected] to explain your condition and request a deferral of your jury service. If directed to report, plan to attend court as a juror from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The time you are released will depend on the court’s schedule.
What Are the Grounds for Postponing Jury Service?
Since jury duty is an essential legal obligation, you have to meet strict criteria to be eligible for deferral or postponement of jury service in Alameda county:
|Criteria for Postponement||Explanation|
|Occupation||Police officers, federal court judges, firefighters, soldiers on active duty, and doctors may request postponement because of the nature of their occupation|
|Medical condition||Mentally or physically disabled citizens are excused due to health issues|
|Childcare and breastfeeding||Breastfeeding mothers and parents with no access to daycare services can defer jury duty indefinitely|
|Financial situation||A court can also postpone your service if doing jury duty would put you in a difficult financial situation|
How Do You Request a Postponement of Jury Duty in Alameda County?
To request a postponement of jury duty in Alameda County, follow these guidelines:
Keep in mind that you cannot postpone jury duty more than twice a year.
“Juror No. 6, I need you to focus”
Crosbys experience speaks to a concern that many attorneys share: Trials arent always the most scintillating experience, and being remote opens up the possibility of juror distraction.
“I spend my time zooming in and making sure and watching the jurors eyes,” says Matthew Williams, a trial judge at King County Superior Court in Washington state. The court has conducted about 325 remote jury selections for criminal and civil cases in 2021 and the first months of this year. More than 90 of those cases continued as remote civil jury trials.
“Early in the process, I will call out one or two jurors who I think may not be completely engaged in the process and specifically call them out, say Juror No. 6, I need you to focus on this process. And Ill tell you, once I do that one or two times, it doesnt happen again. But Im still scanning their eyes, making sure that theyre focused on what is going on in front of them.”
King County also tries to help jurors cope with Zoom fatigue, for example by limiting sessions to three hours at a time or encouraging jurors to get up and move.
The lawyers in these cases dont just want jurors to pay attention, they want them to pay attention to their side of the case.
Ricky Raven runs Allstate Insurance Co.s litigation department and tried an early remote jury case in Alameda County. He misses the nonverbal cues that can be essential in jury selections. He used to look for the newspapers that jurors brought to the courthouse during voir dire to gain possible insight into whether they leaned conservative or liberal.
/ Tracy J. Lee for NPR / Tracy J. Lee for NPRSome courts try to help remote jurors cope with Zoom fatigue by limiting sessions to three hours at a time or encouraging jurors to get up and move.
“It is an imprecise science. No question,” Raven says. “But I think that as a trial lawyer, you have to trust your instincts in terms of … whether [potential jurors] would be open to giving your evidence a fair hearing.”
He cant do that as well during virtual jury selection. During that early trial, which he eventually won, he missed watching the jurors body language to see if they were following his arguments. So he assigned two other team members to watch the screens full time.
Levi Bendele, a partner at Seattle-based law firm Holt Woods & Scisciani, says its tough to judge how jurors are reacting to his arguments. “Is their head turned towards you or away from you? A lot of jury members, you know, depending on the location of the camera, you never even get a square look at their face,” he says. “As an attorney, I find that a little unnerving. Its almost like youre shooting in the dark.”
James Mendel, another partner at Holt Woods & Scisciani, is trying new ways to connect with jurors. “After my first [virtual trial], I got this plant,” he said over a video interview with NPR, pointing at the dragon trees on the bookshelf behind him.
“Now you get to see jurors in their natural environment,” he said. “So many jurors have plants. I figured Id get a plant so that jurors would think Im, you know, plant-friendly. Whereas, you know, [before] doing this by Zoom, you wouldnt have that little insight into their house. … I dont know if that helps me or not. I generally wouldnt have a plant, but now I do.”
Remote jury proceedings are raising questions about who serves on a jury, how they serve and how much of a burden that service is to different segments of the population.
Before the pandemic, some of the biggest obstacles to service included getting time off work or finding transportation to a courthouse. “The turnout rate in the beginning is the critical point,” says Seligman, the judge in Alameda County. If not enough people respond, the court cant start the jury selection. In Alameda, only about 1 out of 5 citizens respond to jury summonses.
Remote jury proceedings help alleviate those problems. The anecdotal experience of judges in the jurisdictions NPR interviewed suggests that remote jury proceedings in the U.S. have increased participation, boosted efficiency and reduced travel expenses.
Since Alameda made jury selection remote, the countys civil court hasnt run out of jurors, Seligman says.
If the obstacle to jury service before the pandemic was the hassle of getting into a physical courtroom, the challenge now is making sure everyone has the technology necessary to get into the virtual courtroom.
Most counties trying these experiments so far have been more urban: King County is home to Seattle, Alameda County is home to Oakland and Travis County is home to Austin.
/ Marissa Leshnov for NPR / Marissa Leshnov for NPRThe Alameda County courthouse in Oakland, Calif.
But not all parts of these counties are big cities. A study by King County found that while most of the county has broadband available, many rural parts of the county do not. Poorer households also are less likely to have adequate internet access, if at all.
Judges and jurors in these jurisdictions told stories of how internet access problems complicated trials. Some jurors were excused for not having access. Others in rural areas, and in some cities, lost connectivity. A trial in Alameda County halted for days when one juror lost internet connection because the utility company was doing repairs in the neighborhood.
To address those concerns, attorneys have delivered tablets to jurors in Alameda. (Both parties paid for them.) Other court systems also have delivered tablets, cellphone minutes and made internet hot spots available to jurors who didnt have adequate access.
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