Jury duty is mandatory for all citizens of the United States over 18 years of age, and you may be called to serve more than once in your life. However, courts acknowledge that a medical condition may make it impractical or even impossible for you to commit to jury duty. Such conditions must be verified in writing by a medical doctor, and the note must describe why your particular condition prevents you from serving.
A medical note excusing you from jury duty should describe your condition and explain why the condition would prohibit you from serving on a jury.
Qualifications for Jury Duty
Qualifying U.S. citizens have a general obligation to serve on a jury when summoned. Qualifications may vary to a limited degree from one court to another, but generally, as set forth by the federal court system, to serve on a jury, an individual must:
- Be a United States citizen.
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Reside primarily in the judicial district for one year.
- Be adequately proficient in English to satisfactorily complete the juror qualification form.
- Have no disqualifying mental or physical condition.
- Do not be currently subject to felony charges punishable by imprisonment for more than one year.
- Never have been convicted of a felony (unless civil rights have been legally restored).
Reasons for Exemptions from Jury Duty
You may be excused from jury duty for any one of several reasons, such as occupation, recent jury service, or age and medical fitness. Generally speaking, courts grant these exemptions only if you provide documentation. If you are a police officer or a fireman – occupations that are categorically exempted – you still need to document your employment when applying for the exemption. The same holds true for medical exemptions. You need written verification of your disqualifying medical condition from your doctor.
What Being Fit for Jury Duty Means
If a medical condition makes you unfit for jury duty, you may be excused. Each court may differ, but as an example, the "Guidelines and Procedures for Doctors Providing Medical Disqualification Letters" provided by the Massachusetts Court System provides that a juror must, at the very least, be able to perform a sedentary job for six hours per day for three consecutive business days.
The Basic Requirements of a Medical Excuse
In order to be excused for medical reasons, any individuals summoned for jury duty need to provide the court written evidence from a licensed medical doctor that they cannot meet these required qualifications. Sometimes a doctor's note verifies that the patient "is being treated" for a particular condition. This seldom qualifies for an exemption, because being treated for a condition may or may not prevent a person from serving. The medical excuse must specifically assert that the condition prevents a person from fulfilling the requirements. Some doctors are aware of this distinction, but it's a good idea when you're asking a doctor for the required written excuse to observe that it must verify the incapability as well as the condition.
Every court has specific requirements for this excuse. Some courts require that the excuse appear on the court's own forms, while others do not. This can be a little tricky when a medical organization – Kaiser Permanente is one – uses its own form. If the problem arises, explain the requirement to the doctor from whom you're requesting the exemption, and ask her to fill out both the form her organization requires and the form required by the court.
Most courts also have deadlines for presentation of a medical excuse from jury duty; for example, the court may require that you report a medical excuse at least seven days prior to the day you're supposed to report. Some courts, as in Georgia, require that all submissions be notarized.