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

19 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. :)

  7. layla Says:

    How do I research if the same statute applies to Guam?

    • moodymommy Says:

      Guam? wow, I’m so sorry, I have no idea. I’m assuming you’ve already googled it.  You can also try calling the court and asking for the exact laws that apply to jury duty and reading them carefully. Many courts have “undue hardship” provisions. Ask for that specifically.   Sorry I can’t offer more than that.   From: Moody Mommy To: moodymommy@sbcglobal.net Sent: Friday, March 27, 2015 5:11 PM Subject: [Moody Mommy] Comment: “When a Mom is Summoned for Jury Duty” #yiv1434481720 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv1434481720 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv1434481720 a.yiv1434481720primaryactionlink:link, #yiv1434481720 a.yiv1434481720primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv1434481720 a.yiv1434481720primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv1434481720 a.yiv1434481720primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv1434481720 WordPress.com | | |

  8. worriedmom Says:

    Hi! I just came across your post. I know you wrote this back in 2008. Have you been summoned for jury duty since then? I’ve just received a summons for standby jury duty in Maywood in couple of weeks and would like to petition as a stay-at-home mom who is unable to find child care. I’m also 31 weeks pregnant. I’m worried that I will be called back again for jury duty again soon even if I am excused this time, at a more difficult location to get to. I’ve been to 26 st. and california courthouse twice and do not want to go back there. Thanks for your advice!

    • moodymommy Says:

      Hi Worried Mom, I have, in fact, been summoned since then. I can’t give any legal advice but to point you to a statute in IL that is probably relevant to your situation (child under 12? no babysitter?). If this statute is still in full force and effect, and you think it applies to your situation, you should be able to write a letter to the clerk of court explaining your situation and citing the statute: (705 ILCS 305/10.2) (from Ch. 78, par. 10.2)      Sec. 10.2. Excusing prospective jurors; hardship.      (a) The county boards of the respective counties, the jury commissioners for those counties which have been appointed under the Jury Commission Act, or a jury administrator shall submit questionnaires to prospective jurors to inquire as to their qualifications for jury service and as to the hardship that jury service would pose to the prospective jurors. Upon prior approval by the chief judge of the judicial circuits in which a county board, jury administrator, or jury commissioners are situated, the county board, jury administrator, or jury commissioners shall excuse a prospective juror from jury service if the prospective juror shows that such service would impose an undue hardship on account of the nature of the prospective juror’s occupation, business affairs, physical health, family situation, active duty in the Illinois National Guard or Illinois Naval Militia, or other personal affairs, and cause his or her name to be returned to the jury list or general jury list.      (b) 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.  (Source: P.A. 90-482, eff. 1-1-98; 91-264, eff. 7-23-99.)

      WorriedMom, I believe that, like voting, serving on a jury is an honor and a privilege in our country.  I hope to someday be in a position to serve on a jury and provide my best effort at that time.  As for you and your situation today, I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck. From: Moody Mommy To: moodymommy@sbcglobal.net Sent: Monday, November 2, 2015 8:59 AM Subject: [Moody Mommy] Comment: “When a Mom is Summoned for Jury Duty” #yiv8527980649 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8527980649 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8527980649 a.yiv8527980649primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8527980649 a.yiv8527980649primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8527980649 a.yiv8527980649primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8527980649 a.yiv8527980649primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8527980649 WordPress.com | | |

  9. Felix Pabon Says:

    How does my wife write a letter to get out of Jury duty ? I’m the only income for our family . We can’t afford childcare , and all my kids are under the age of 12 . We have 3 boys ages 7, 5 and 2 . It’s very troublesome if can’t get her out of rhis . Cause it will interfere with my kids school and there mother picking rhem up from school . Please help

    • moodymommy Says:

      So sorry it took me so long to reply!  It depends on the state you live in.  Take a look at this helpful website for your state and the rules. No matter what, send your letter citing the rules (if there is one) certified mail or fax it so you get a confirmation.see the link here: States and U.S. Territories with Family Friendly Jury Duty | | | States and U.S. Territories with Family Friendly Jury Duty | |

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      Hope this helps and good luck! From: Moody Mommy To: moodymommy@sbcglobal.net Sent: Wednesday, July 13, 2016 12:29 PM Subject: [Moody Mommy] Comment: “When a Mom is Summoned for Jury Duty” #yiv3429727609 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv3429727609 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv3429727609 a.yiv3429727609primaryactionlink:link, #yiv3429727609 a.yiv3429727609primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv3429727609 a.yiv3429727609primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv3429727609 a.yiv3429727609primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv3429727609 WordPress.com | | |

  10. Natasha Says:

    I’m in Georgia and got the letter yesterday, so I called up there to see if I needed to send anything along with the slip and letter. The clerk immediately asked me about the situation. I informed her that my husband has brain damage and is on disability. I am the primary caregiver of our toddler, my husband can’t watch him for very long and I have nobody else to watch him. I mentioned that I had some paperwork from Social Security and asked if that would need to be sent. She informed me that no, they wouldn’t accept anything from Social Security. I needed to get a note from my husband’s doctor. My husband’s doctor had a baby and is no longer practicing. He hasn’t found another yet and it would be at least 2 weeks before he could even see anyone. She then told me I needed a note from my son’s doctor. I called the office and explained the situation to the receptionist. His pediatrician wasn’t it, nor was the other that usually handles these things. She told me to call next week and talk to the doctor but warned me that she might not be comfortable doing it. I thanked her and hung up. My husband and I are currently awaiting a call from an in-home speech pathologist for our son. Once we hear back, we’ll need to setup a time for them to come over and evaluate our son. I’m absolutely positive that he’ll need some degree of help. Not only do I need to be available for the evaluation, but I will need to be available for all visits. So here I am, an entire month before I’m supposed to be at the courthouse and these people have me jumping hoops like a circus poodle. The return slip is very vague and doesn’t elaborate on any documentation needed, which is why I called. If simply checking a box and sending a letter isn’t enough, they need to specify what documents they’d like. Personally, I don’t feel that what they’re doing is right at all. What do either of the doctors have to do with this? I have yet to read something that required the individual to provide a bunch of crap, especially in a situation very similar to mine.

    • moodymommy Says:

      I am not a practicing attorney (and certainly not in Georgia), so this is NOT legal advice to you. However, this is what I found when I googled “jury duty” “Georgia” and “family” looks like Georgia may have a law exempting anyone who is the primary caregiver from service with a child age six or younger who supplies the court with a filled out form, that the clerk is supposed to give to you.  You stated you have a toddler, so you should be fine.I don’t understand what the clerk is asking of you unless s/he misunderstood and didn’t know you have a child under six and were asking about paragraph (5) of the statute (you can see that paragraph when you click on the link to the Georgia law). .   The difficulty here, as far as I can see it, is that from the statute, it looks like you may need a form from the clerk of court.  That sounds like a pain in the neck but try asking for the “affidavit on a form” for those with “active care and custody of a child six years of age or younger”.  If it is convenient for you to stop in to the court itself, you can ask for this form. If not, as them to get it to you.If you need a notary, banks have them and your own bank may not charge you for a notary (you many not need one, look for the space on the form but even if your bank charges, it will be a nominal fee).   Here is the statute:  2010 Georgia Code TITLE 15 – COURTS CHAPTER 12 – JURIES ARTICLE 1 – GENERAL PROVISIONS § 15-12-1 – Exemptions from jury duty (3) Notwithstanding paragraph (1) of this subsection, any person who is the primary caregiver having active care and custody of a child six years of age or younger, who executes an affidavit on a form provided by the court stating that such person is the primary caregiver having active care and custody of a child six years of age or younger and stating that such person has no reasonably available alternative child care, and who requests to be excused or deferred shall be excused or deferred from jury duty. It shall be the duty of the court to provide affidavits for the purpose of this paragraph and paragraph (4) of this subsection.”

      from this link: 2010 Georgia Code :: TITLE 15 – COURTS :: CHAPTER 12 – JURIES :: ARTICLE 1 – GENERAL PROVISIONS :: § 15-12-1 – Exemptions from jury duty

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      | | | | 2010 Georgia Code :: TITLE 15 – COURTS :: CHAPTER 12 – JURIES :: ARTICLE… | |

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      So sorry they don’t make it easy for you. It sounds like you have a very full plate to deal with and this just piles more on!  Good luck to you!!!

      WordPress.com | | |

      • Natasha Says:

        Thank you! I explained the situation completely to the clerk. I did inform her that our son is 2 years of age and that my husband’s condition is permanent. The return slip does include a very small affidavit on the back which does require the signature of a notary. None of this makes any sense to me because I was very clear in my explanation. There isn’t even a section to provide any information regarding the reason for the request such as the date of birth or name of the child. This can easily be put in the letter, but having it on the return slip would seem appropriate as well. I guess all I can do is provide them with what I have and go from there. If they give me any trouble I’ll probably speak with someone higher up. I’d love to participate, but my responsibilities as a mother come first. I shouldn’t have to drive all over the state (we aren’t originally from this area) to get documents that “prove” I take care of my son.


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