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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 9, 2014 02:23 PM
From: Senator Stewart J. Greenleaf
To: All Senate members
Subject: Exemptions from jury duty
I am reintroducing Senate Bill 174 of last session, amending section 4503 of the Judicial Code, Title 42 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, to exempt from jury duty persons 75 years of age or older who wish to be excused and to exempt from jury duty federal and state judges. The exemption from jury duty for persons who have previously served on a statewide investigating grand jury is not included in the reintroduction of this legislation because that exemption was enacted into law through House Bill 804, Act 63 of 2012.

At least twenty-six states exempt elderly persons from serving on juries. Generally, states have set the age qualifying for the exemption at 65, 70 or 75. For example, in West Virginia the age is 65, in Maryland the age is 70, and in New Jersey the age is 75.

This exemption was suggested by a 79 year old constituent who complained that he needed documentation from his doctor of “undue hardship” to be excused from jury duty and who reported that his 85 year old friend also was summoned for jury duty. While many elderly persons may be able and willing to serve on juries, it seems only fair to give our most elderly citizens the ability to be excused from jury duty.

The legislation allows Pennsylvania judges and magisterial district judges, and judges of the United States as defined under federal law, to request an exemption if they are called for jury duty. Currently, federal law exempts all public officials, including federal and state judges, from jury duty in the federal courts. See 28 U.S.C. § 1863(b)(6)(iii). However, no federal or state statute similarly exempts judges from state jury service.

The bill brings the state court system into parity with the federal court system. More importantly, the legislation prevents a waste of judicial resources. Judges who take the time to report for jury service are rejected in the vast majority of instances. Judges serve their communities when they preside over their courtrooms far more than when they appear for jury service, only to be rejected.

At least fifteen states have enacted similar legislation: Alaska, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Introduced as SB210