Introduction

Fulfilling Jury Duty as a Student

Fulfilling Jury Duty as a Student

I was originally going to write about re-registering with Accessibility Services this week, but I underestimated the amount of time that my jury duty would take this week, so I did not re-register, so I have nothing to say on that. Instead I’m going to explain some things about jury duty and what accommodations are available to you as a University of Toronto Student, should you be called.

To be eligible to serve as a juror, you must be a) 19 years of age or older, b) a Canadian citizen, c) a resident of the jurisdiction which summoned you to be a juror, and d) not convicted of an indictable offence for which you have not been pardoned. In short: if you are an adult Canadian citizen living in Toronto and haven’t been caught doing something particularly bad, then you are eligible to be summoned. I assume that many students will fall under this category.

Jury duty involves a lot of waiting. You are required to attend court for up to five consecutive business days, at which point you will wait in the jury lounge from 9:30 to 4:30. At this point you are a prospective juror. A group of you may randomly be chosen, at which point you will be escorted to a courtroom, where, by ballot, you may be selected to be on a jury for that particular trial. If, like me, you fail repeatedly to be selected to be a juror, jury duty amounts to 35 hours of waiting in a room full of chairs.

However, the nature of jury duty can make it very untimely for university students. To make that worse: there seems to be no advice on the university website on what you should do in case you are summoned for jury duty at a particularly inconvenient time for your studies.

The Ministry of the Attorney General has some information on possible exemptions for a university student. In the FAQ, it says that if you are a student attending school away from home, you can return the summons to the court address written on the summons with a letter in writing explaining why the summons will cause problems and supporting documentation. I assume this means that, if you rent in Toronto only for the school year but have a permanent residence in another province, then you can explain to the court that jury duty in Toronto is impossible, but sadly the FAQ is kind of ambiguous.

Otherwise, if you are still required to attend court, you can speak with the jury officers at the court location and explain why you may need a postponement. On the first day, the officers rattled off a list of possible reasons for postponement, and one of them was “I am a full-time student and I am missing school.” If they consider you eligible for postponement, they will put a calendar in front of you and ask you to tell them which week would work best for you, upon which I assume you will be required to return that week. I do not know if exams are a sufficient reason for postponement, but if they are not, then you will have to speak with your faculty to have exams deferred.

If you are called for jury duty and you can’t postpone and, by luck of the draw, you are selected to be a juror, then you have the opportunity to appeal to the judge to be excused. You will need a very good reason. I would assume that, if you are a full-time student, and the trial is expected to go a particularly long time, to the point where you will miss a great chunk of the semester, then that would be sufficient cause to be excused.

When, ultimately, you have fulfilled your duty either by attending court as a prospective juror or by actually serving as a juror, the court can and will provide you with documentation stating when you have been attending court. If, by bad luck, you cannot postpone your duty to a time that does not interfere with school, you will have to provide this documentation to the relevant powers at the University for a documented absence.

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