When a Mom is Summoned for Jury Duty

Recently, I was summoned for jury duty. For some time in my former non-SAHM life, I was a practicing attorney and, for now, I still have my license. I have always wanted to serve on a jury. Not only do I consider it a privilege, I think it would be fascinating. Upon receiving the summons, I noted that, thank goodness, I was called to the Daley Center and not to the dangerous area of 26th and California. Then I walked over to the calendar to mark off the day. Just as I was about to put pen to paper (yes, I have a wall calendar, not some electronic thing), I hesitated. “What am I going to do with the kids?” I wondered.

In over five years since we had children, we have never hired a babysitter. If Gadget Man and I go out without the children, my mother or his mother watches the children. My mother-in-law works some weekdays and even if she were free, she won’t do anything before 10 a.m. Even if my mother was able to take the kids for the entire day, what would I do if I were assigned to a trial that lasted more than one day? I was fairly certain that if I showed up for one day and explained my lack of childcare, that I would be dismissed. Why waste the court’s and my time to explain my situation? The summons stated that one may be excused from jury duty “because of undue hardship.” Surely, this is a case of undue hardship.

Prior to drafting the request to be excused from jury duty, I conducted some research on the matter. As it turns out, Illinois Statute 705 ILCS 305/10.2 (b) provides that one may be excused from jury if one is the primary caregiver to children under the age of twelve. The provision states:

When an undue hardship caused by a family situation is due to the prospective juror being the primary care giver of a person with a mental or physical disability, a person with a medically diagnosed behavior problem, or a child under age 12, then the county board, jury commissioners or jury administrator shall excuse such a prospective juror, if it finds that no reasonable alternative care is feasible which would not impose an undue hardship on the prospective juror or the person for whom the prospective juror is providing care, or both.

Happily, I discovered that there is also a provision excusing nursing mothers (see 705 ILCS 305/10.3). It seems Illinois is quite enlightened and “family friendly.”

I wrote my letter and sent it to the Jury Administrator as instructed on the summons. I never heard a word. Usually, I am incredibly responsible (some say anal) and, in such a case, I would telephone the administrator to make sure he or she got my letter and that I was, indeed, excused. However, I completely forgot to call. I woke up in the middle of the night just before the date in a panic. “What if my letter got lost in the mail?” “What if this particular administrator doesn’t like to excuse caregivers and I’m really not excused?” “Will they find me in contempt of court?”

It has been over a month since the jury duty date and I believe the system worked. I pleaded my case as a caregiver of young children, and I can safely say that I was, indeed, excused. Thank you, Illinois legislature, for valuing the family and the primary caretaker’s responsibilities. Thank you, Cook County Jury Administrator, for understanding this SAHM’s particular situation.

This is cross-posted at http://www.chicagomomsblog.com

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10 Responses to “When a Mom is Summoned for Jury Duty”

  1. jeffro341 Says:

    Unfortunately… California isn’t as progressive! You can see my rant here if interested: http://tinyurl.com/479j6r

    Jeff

  2. stephenzr Says:

    Good for you. I’m in the process of sending in a similar letter to the jury administrator tomorrow morning. I hope it works.
    This site was very helpful:
    http://www.familyfriendlyjuryduty.org

  3. Moody Mommy Says:

    Stephenzr,
    Good luck to you. Let me know how it turns out. I never heard a peep from them after my letter. Are you in Cook County, IL?

  4. prepaid legal leads Says:

    I heard about this, but your post is the best explanation of it. Most other blogs I have read don’t know what they are talking about. However, I must say that your blog is very informative…I am subscribing to your RSS feed right now! Thanks!

  5. Stuck on a panel. AGAIN. Says:

    So glad I stumbled upon this!! For the THIRD time in 18 months, I’ve been called for jury duty. I’ve never served, but can’t seem to get dismissed even though I’m the primary caregiver of our four children, all of whom are under the age of 12. Last time my husband had to take off from work to watch them, which cost us his income AND mine. (Small companies don’t have to compensate for jury duty.)

    I’m taking this to my Circuit Clerk’s office tomorrow, though they’ve already told me it may not do any good. How can that be??? Ah well.. I’ll definitely present it!

    • moodymommy Says:

      Good luck! Are you in Illinois? Keep me posted!

      • Stuck on a panel. AGAIN. Says:

        Yep, I’m in Illinois. For some reason they think this law won’t do me any good, but I’m not sure how that can be.

    • moodymommy Says:

      Umm . . . I’m not sure why the law would not apply to you. It seems like this law was written to protect stay-at-home parents from undue hardship regarding jury duty. This isn’t legal advice, but if you write a letter citing the law and demonstrating the undue hardship, it should work in your favor. Just be sure to send it well in advance of the jury date. If not, what will they do if you show up with your children for lack of child care? Of course, that is always another option.

      • Stuck on a panel. AGAIN. Says:

        That’s my plan today. Apparently this judge only comes in on Tuesdays, so he won’t even get my letter until then. If a law refresher doesn’t take care of it, then I definitely intend on showing up with my children. After all, they surely won’t arrest me for it! And if they do, I know several good media outlets!

  6. Stuck on a panel. AGAIN. Says:

    Oh, and I work for my family’s business, so I’m able to take them to work with me the few days a week that I’m there. Hence no daycare. :)


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