|Posted:||January 19, 2021 01:04 PM|
|From:||Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill|
|To:||All Senate members|
|Subject:||Primary Caregiver Exemption for Jury Duty|
|In the near future, I will introduce legislation to provide an exemption to primary caregivers from jury duty.
Under current law in Pennsylvania, prospective jurors who are the primary caregivers of our young children or permanently disabled persons must apply for exemptions or excusals from jury duty by demonstrating to the court undue hardship or extreme inconvenience (Title 42 § 4503 Exemptions from jury duty).
The definitions of undue hardship and extreme inconvenience are not found in the statute on jury selection. It is left up to the interpretation of the judge or another subordinate court official to whom the decision making is delegated. Inconsistent and subjective decisions on applications for exemption and excusals within our judicial system create additional challenges for our primary caregivers.
For example, a constituent shared that she was told repeatedly by court officials she must appear in person to make her application for exemption/excusal despite having no alternative care for her young children. She had no choice but to bundle up her three children and transport them with her to court. Recently another constituent reported a perceived unwillingness of the court to defer jury service of a stay-at-home parent of children under school age who were not enrolled in daycare.
Those of us who have been the primary caregivers for young children or permanently disabled persons understand the significant challenges this responsibility entails, challenges that intensify when there are no other persons on hand to assist and financial resources are limited.
Today in Pennsylvania many caregivers are burdened further with challenges of COVID-19 related disruptions and closures to our businesses, schools, child and adult care centers, and outpatient medical facilities. Parents and guardians have lost access to care centers as well as financial resources associated with loss of their jobs. Many more children and dependent adults are now at home requiring more Pennsylvanians to assume caregiving duties during the normal hours of court operations.
Rather than continuing to demand that primary caregivers of dependent individuals with limited resources justify their application for exemption under the undue hardship or extreme inconvenience provision, our statute should recognize the importance and necessity of our essential caregivers by adding a provision that a caregiver upon request will be excused from jury duty upon meeting specific conditions.
My forthcoming legislation would provide an exemption for caregivers who are not working outside the home, reside in the same household and have the primary responsibility for active care of a child under the age of seven or a permanently disabled person during the hours when the court is normally in session.
The bill also states that the exemption from jury duty only applies if no alternative for care is available, or the caregiver is unable to afford alternative care.
I hope you will join me in cosponsoring this needed legislation to support our essential caregivers.