Last month I was summoned for jury duty. I am a stay-at-home mom. I have two 4-year-olds and a 6-year-old. Jury duty runs from 8:30 a.m. till 5 p.m. My oldest attends school from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. I have opted to do home preschool with my twins, and I have no alternative care for them. And my husband works full time.
Based on the advice I read online, a simple written explanation to the judge stating that I was the full-time caregiver to non school-aged children would excuse me from jury duty. I nervously wrote everything down and returned it with the required questionnaire. And just three days later, I received a post card in the mail saying my request to be excused was DENIED. I may have had a panic attack right in that very moment.
In good form, I complained on Facebook. I’ve included some of the responses I got:
One mom wrote, “Usually if you say you have no other childcare, they’ll excuse you.” — Exactly what I thought, too. I guess usually is the key word there.
Another told me to lie and claim I was mentally unstable.
Yet another said she was excused since she had already planned to be out of town on the day she was summoned for.
One mom told me she was excused from the very same county I was summoned for because she was breastfeeding, even though her child was 2 years old. — I considered claiming I was still nursing my twins, but the rules on my summons said nursing mothers were excused with a doctor’s note. This mom told me she didn’t ever have to supply one, but I didn’t take my chances.
Our own Mumbling Mommy writer Rachael said she’d bring her daughter anyway, saying, “I don’t have a sitter available during the day… [My husband] and I had a discussion about what to do if I got called in. I’d bring [my daughter] with me. Not everyone has easy access to babysitters or the money to pay for them!”
Finally, the topic turned into a bit of a debate over jury duty being a consequence of being a registered voter. Several comments were made about people being willing to give up their right to vote if it meant not having to do jury duty. — I explored this topic further and discovered that jury duty is a consequence of being an American citizen as defined by the 6th Amendment. It has nothing to do with your right to vote at all. The voter registry is how many counties get their lists of eligible jurors, but some counties get their lists simply from the driver’s license bureau, passport office, census, and/or tax assessments.
My brother-in-law, who was playing a little bit of devil’s advocate, finally summed it up by saying, “I understand your point of view. I’m just pointing out that the government pretty much doesn’t care.” And that, my friends, is exactly the case.
I did end up calling after receiving my denial and was told it was up to the judge, and there is not any specific rhyme or reason why this moms excused from jury duty and not another. The clerk offered to delay my service one time for six months, but since I would just face the exact same situation in the fall, that didn’t seem helpful. He advised that not showing up would cause the county to issue a warrant for my arrest, and that bringing my kids with me would result in me being held in contempt and my children would be turned over to social services until another guardian could come get them. Seriously. Extreme much?
For me, the story turned out okay. My retired father-in law offered to make the 40-minute one-way trip to come watch my kids for 9 hours a day for as many days as was needed, but thankfully, the offer wasn’t needed as the case I was assigned to was settled ahead of time and my service was marked as completed, meaning I can’t be called to serve again for two years.
Moms Excused From Jury Duty: Yes or No?
So what would you do? Do you think it’s fair that parents face this kind of stress over a jury duty summons? What about people who are the primary caregivers for their disabled or elderly parents? Does our system need revamping or does everyone have some excuse and we all just need to suck it up and do our part? Should moms be excused from jury duty to make sure their children are taken care of?
Fun note of fact: Here in Missouri, one of our state senators was recently summoned for jury duty and was even picked for the panel. She proudly served and even tweeted hilariously before and after the trial. I am not against serving in a jury actually. I would love the experience IF it was something I could decide to do when it was convenient for me. During my rant, I started using #callmeintwoyears with my posts because once all three of my kids are school aged, it would just take a minor adjustment on our end and I would gladly put in my time.
P.S. Rachael, if you are ever summoned, call me. Kiddo(s) can hang out with my girls for free!
Tags: Heather C.