I recently got my summons in the mail to perform an essential civic duty by serving as a juror. And I’m not going to lie, I was actually very excited. I worked in politics and law for 6 years and am an avid true crime fan, but mostly I’ve always been curious about what it would be like to sit on a jury. After I got my summons I realized how unprepared I was and how much I had no idea how the process would actually play out or what was involved. I started to think..man, if I’m not prepared and I have resided within this world for so long, everyone else might be in the dark as well.
So I thought I’d help ya out and list out a few key things everyone should know about jury duty! And then (of course) I’ll put up a few outfit ideas for if and when you ever get called up to serve! Court room etiquette is an important part of the process too so I’m gonna help y’all out with all of it!
What to Expect
I’m not sure if this works differently in each state, but this was at least the case in Oklahoma..
When you receive your summons in the mail, it will have information pertaining to the date you’ll need to report to your county courthouse and a few other pieces of information. What it will not include: any details about specific cases.
You’ll need to go online and confirm your summons. This will let the courthouse know to expect you on the reporting day.
If for some reason you need to excuse yourself or defer, your summons will have information on how to do that. I actually did defer my first summons because I was going to be in DC for the first reporting date. They were totally okay with that and I was able to defer extremely easily. Don’t get intimidated by how official the summons is, if you need to excuse or defer, reach out to the courthouse jury office as soon as you can and I guarantee you’ll be able to get it worked out! Just know that if you don’t show up, you could be held in contempt of court so if there are any conflicts with the date, you will 100% need to get that sorted out.
On the day you report for duty, the first thing to figure out is what to wear (which I’ll go over thoroughly below) but the main thing to know is that there is etiquette to courtroom attire. Wear something professional and respectful with closed-toe shoes. Absolutely no denim/jeans. When I got to the courthouse I was literally appalled at what some people wore. Rule of thumb: if you feel under-dressed, you probably are.
When you get to the courthouse, you’ll most likely be directed to some kind of waiting room with a lot of other people in it. After checking in and letting the clerk scan your summons paper (BRING IT WITH YOU), you’ll go find a seat and then….wait. Oh, the waiting.
Which brings me to my next point: bring. a. book. You will spend four to five hours just waiting to be assigned to a judge/case and some courts will not allow you to use your phone, so bring a book y’all.
The clerk will start calling names and assigning people to judges and so your wait time will depend on which list your name is on and how long it takes to get to that list.
Once you get assigned to a judge, you’ll go with your group to that judge’s courtroom. Most likely you’ll be in a group of about 30 people.
If you know anything about how juries and trials work, you know that a jury is made up of 12 people with one or two alternates. So being in a group of 30 people, obviously this will get whittled down. The way they do this is a process called voir dire.
The clerk will select names at random (for our voir dire it was a group of 22) to be the initial group. And then the judge and attorneys on either side will conduct some informational sequences and questioning to that group of people. Be prepared: these questions can get extremely personal and you will have to answer them in a room full of people. In my experience, the accused was actually in the room for the entire thing. I don’t know if that’s standard, but it certainly was the case in my experience.
That voir dire process takes a long time. It lasted about 3 hours for us and since my name wasn’t selected, I just sat and watched while the others took part in it. After the questions and answers were finally complete, the defense and prosecution each eliminated 5 people in order to get the jury down to 12 people.
Then three more names will be selected at random. Those people will go through the same voir dire (except much faster, about 30 minutes) and of those three, they eliminated two people. The one remaining served as an alternate juror.
That pretty much completed the process up through what I experienced, so that’s really all the insight I can provide. It was a little frustrating sitting through the whole thing and just having to listen to all of it without participating.
If you’re not selected, you’ll go back to the original room to let the clerk know you weren’t selected and they will either assign you to a new case or send you home and let you know you’ve completed your jury service.
I wish I had been able to gone through more of the process so I could walk you through it, but unfortunately this is all I can provide. I hope it was helpful!
How to Dress
A few rules…
Closed toe shoes – don’t even THINK about wearing sandals. Peep-toe heels are okay.
Sensible length skirt/dress if you’re not wearing pants
It should go without saying, but no shorts!
Nothing strapless, spaghetti straps, halter, etc. Make sure you have solid sleeves.
Blazer not required or necessary
This is what I chose to wear. Super sensible and comfortable dress with flat shoes that wouldn’t hurt my feet if I wound up having to stand for prolonged amounts of time.
This is another outfit I had in mind for another day of jury service had I been selected. You can’t go wrong with a structured black blouse and high-waisted wide leg pants with black pumps (although you can’t see my shoes in this picture). I had these pants picked out because it made a professional looking outfit with the top, but yet they would still be super comfy if I was going to be in court all day.
I’ll link some shopping options here so you can shop similar looks for your own wardrobe whether you need it for work or jury duty!