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Qualifications to be a California Juror

I was recently called for jury duty. For those of you wondering whether lawyers actually get called for jury duty, the answer is a most definite yes. I was ultimately not selected to be on the jury, but I did have to sit through two days of voir dire. Seeing it form the juror’s perspective was exciting given that I’m usually the one doing the voir dire in a setting like that. Anyway, the experience of having been through that gives rise to the topic of today’s post which is “What qualifications do you have to meet in California in order to be a juror?”

Like with many things I go over on this blog, there’s an app for that… oops, sorry, what I actually meant to say was “There’s a statute for that.” In this case, the statute in question is Section 203 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, which states:

 “(a) All persons are eligible and qualified to be prospective trial jurors, except the following:

(1) Persons who are not citizens of the United States.

(2) Persons who are less than 18 years of age.

(3) Persons who are not domiciliaries of the State of California, as determined pursuant to Article 2 (commencing with Section 2020) of Chapter 1 of Division 2 of the Elections Code.

(4) Persons who are not residents of the jurisdiction wherein they are summoned to serve.

(5) Persons who have been convicted of malfeasance in office and whose civil rights have not been restored.

(6) Persons who are not possessed of sufficient knowledge of the English language, provided that no person shall be deemed incompetent solely because of the loss of sight or hearing in any degree or other disability which impedes the person’s ability to communicate or which impairs or interferes with the person’s mobility.

(7) Persons who are serving as grand or trial jurors in any court of this state.

(8) Persons who are the subject of conservatorship.

(9) Persons while they are incarcerated in any prison or jail.

(10) Persons who have been convicted of a felony and are currently on parole, postrelease community supervision, felony probation, or mandated supervision for the conviction of a felony.

(11)  Persons who are currently required to register as a sex offender pursuant to Section 290 of the Penal Code based on a felony conviction.

(b) No person shall be excluded from eligibility for jury service in the State of California, for any reason other than those reasons provided by this section.

(c) The provisions of this section are severable. If any provision of this section or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.”

Section 203 is phrased in an exclusionary manner — namely, everyone is eligible to be a juror unless you meet one of the exceptions in (a)(1) to (a)(11). To paraphrase, the grounds for exclusion are:

  • You’re not a US citizen
  • You’re under age 18
  • You don’t live in California and you also don’t live in the county where the jury summons was issued
  • You have a felony conviction
  • You’re currently incarcerated
  • You have to register as a sex offender
  • You’re the subject of a conservatorship
  • You don’t speak or understand English

Of note as well is that Section 203(a)(1) – (a)(11) are the only reasons why someone can be excluded from jury duty.

As always, I hope this post was helpful or, at the very least, somewhat interesting. If you have a situation involving eligibility for jury service in California, do look at the precise text of Section 203 (this should not be difficult. I literally posted it verbatim above) and don’t rely on my paraphrase or summary of Section 203. It is entirely possible I may not have captured some technical point in my paraphrasing that could actually be enormously important to your case.

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Andy Chen

Andy I. Chen is a lawyer licensed to practice law in California and New York. Andy maintains offices in Los Altos, California and Modesto, California. Under the New York Court of Appeals' 2015 decision in Schoenefeld v. State of New York, Andy does not accept cases from those in New York state. He does, however, know many lawyers in New York state and would be happy to make a referral.

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