Being summoned for jury duty can be stressful.
I found that out last November, when I received a summons for a trial that was expected to last up to four weeks. The number of documents was overwhelming—there were several pages explaining how jury duty works and who’s exempt from serving, as well as forms I had to fill out.
There was also an explanation of compensation. Ontario jurors are only paid $40 per day, starting at 11 days of service. After 50 days (cases this long are rare), the rate is bumped up to $100. What’s more, chosen jurors receive no allowance for travel and parking if the courthouse is within 40 kilometers of their home. There’s also no coverage of childcare expenses (fees and allowances vary across the country).
And while employers are required by law to hold people’s jobs, most across Canada don’t have to pay their employees. I was lucky. I called HR and found out my employer would pay me for any time missed. But many of your clients may not be so fortunate.
Still, I worried because going to jury duty meant I would’ve missed a vacation that I’d already booked. So I Googled for answers and learned all I had to do was send a short letter about my scheduling conflict.
This took time, however, and I would’ve appreciated some guidance. So here’s how to help a client if he’s received a summons.
1. Tell him to read over summons notices carefully.
People who break Juries Act rules, such as failing to show up to court dates without cause, may be fined. So, a potential juror needs to review all the rules and responsibilities in those documents. The forms included in a summons also outline who’s exempt from serving. For instance, if your client is a police officer, doctor, or is caring for a young baby or dependent relative, he can send a letter asking for an exemption. Courts also consider illness, work and school concerns, along with paid-for vacations and weddings.
2. Ensure he consults managers and HR reps immediately.
Managers can help employees by supporting claims of financial hardships via letters. They can also state employees are needed at work. If the claims are rejected, managers can then assist a person in delegating his tasks to other colleagues, while HR reps check into whether pay is offered for any missed time. If compensation’s not provided, the client needs to tell the court, since that supports financial hardship arguments.
3. Review his exemption letter.
If compliance approves, you could help your client craft a well-written exemption letter. If he’s detailing financial challenges, you’re likely in the best position to make sure he accurately describes his obligations.
4. Develop short-term cash flow plans.
If a client must serve, help him review and potentially tweak his cash flow plan. He may need to put aside funds for parking, gas and childcare fees, especially if he won’t receive pay through work. In that case, he’d also have to figure out how he’ll pay bills and other recurring expenses while he serves.
5. Prepare for emergencies.
A juror can share the phone number of the courthouse with emergency contacts, which may include you. If those contacts phone, the presiding judge would review the circumstance and may excuse a juror from service due to emergencies.
6. Research the role of jury foreperson.
If a client isn’t outgoing, he likely shouldn’t adopt this role since a jury foreperson leads and speaks for the entire jury. This person also helps direct conversations and deliberations.
How to sidestep jury duty, to check out an infographic about jury duty
Jury duty: Unfair burden or civic obligation?, for more on the jury system in Canada