Participating in the Jury System
Students will understand how juries are selected, and how Constitutional Amendments such as the 14th Amendment influence lawsuits.
Students will learn about the civic responsibility of jury duty by conducting an interview. They will then write an essay explaining why participation in the jury system is important.
Jury Duty (PDF) Student Reproducible 4; pen or pencil
- Jury Duty (PDF)
- Have students name some of the rights and freedoms afforded to citizens of the United States (freedom of speech, freedom of the press, right to assemble, right to trial by jury, etc.). Create a list of student responses on the board.
- If they have not listed it already, tell students that they are granted the right to trial by jury by the Sixth and Seventh Amendments to the United States Constitution. Have students list some reasons why trial by jury is an important right (cases are decided by peers, impartial parties hear cases, a group of citizens must weigh the evidence and agree on a verdict).
- Have students name some of the responsibilities that go along with the rights and freedoms of citizens (voting, assembling peacefully, political dissent, etc.). Ask students if they think serving on a jury is a civic responsibility. Ask what might happen if people did not serve on juries (quality of jurors would diminish, the right to trial by jury might dissolve).
- Review the rules of eligibility for federal jury service with students.
- Be citizens of the United States
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Reside primarily in the judicial district for at least one year
- Be able to read, write, speak, and understand the English language
- Be mentally and physically capable of rendering jury service
- Not have felony charges pending against them
- Not have felony convictions (unless civil rights have been legally restored)
Groups exempt from jury service:
- Members of the armed forces on active duty
- Members of professional fire and police departments
- "Public Officers" of federal, state, or local governments who are actively engaged in the performance of public duties
Selection of Jurors:
- Potential jurors are randomly selected from voter registration lists and sometimes driver's license lists to receive a questionnaire determining their eligibility for jury service
- Distribute copies of Jury Duty (PDF) Student Reproducible 4. As a group, read aloud the sidebar content on the right-hand side of the page. Lead students in a discussion of judicial systems in other countries. Discuss the importance of the American jury system in relation to other nations' judicial systems.
- Divide students into groups of three. Assign each group to find an adult
(e.g., teacher, parent, guardian, older relative) who has served jury duty and interview him or her using the questions included on the reproducible as a starting point. Instruct students to use their interview responses to complete the essay activity in Part 2 of the reproducible.
- To help students prepare for the interview, write the following terms and definitions on the board and review them with your students.
Bailiff: An officer who assists the court and the jury and maintains order in the courtroom
Civil case: A claim for money to compensate for the wrongdoing of one person or organization to another
Class action: A lawsuit brought by one or more people on behalf of a larger group of people
Criminal case: A case in which an individual is accused of committing a crime
Defendant: The person against whom a case is brought
Defense attorney: A lawyer for the defendant
Grand jury: A jury of individuals who consider evidence in a criminal case to determine if the case is valid and a suspect can be prosecuted
Plaintiff: A person or organization that starts a civil lawsuit by claiming damage
Prosecution: The federal, state, or local government that is accusing an individual of committing a crime
Prosecuting attorney: A lawyer for the prosecution
EVALUATE THE LESSON
Have students share some of their interview experiences with the class.