A Question about Jury Duty

A question for US dopers.

Do major celebrities, politicians and other truly famous people have to serve jury duty like the rest of us? I don’t see why some movie star should be excused simply because they are too busy doing something else.

Does anyone know?


I was once on jury duty in Manhattan, and heard the clerk call “Scorcese, Martin”, and watched the director get up and walk up to the desk to go out for a case panel. That time, I was also called into a panel for case (from which I was eventually excused) with the then-President of New York University and one of the local network TV station news anchors.

Maybe they should be excused because they are likely to have undue influence on the rest of the jury by virtue of their celebrity status.

I remember reading a while back that Hunter S. Thompson was called for jury duty on a case involving John Denver. IIRC, he didn’t serve.

Checking Google, I found that Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York was called for jury duty in 2007, but lawyers didn’t choose him.

At least sometimes.

In 2002, Governor Rick Perry showed up for jury duty an an Austin municipal court for a traffic ticket trial. He went through voir dire and was afterwards struck by one side or the other (or maybe both).

Mayor Giuliani was also called for jury duty while in office, and served on a short civil trial.

Beat me to it. Waht was odd there was not that he was mayor but that he was a former prosecutor.

Can I ask why you assume a movie star would be excused?

That said, the odds are that they would be able to be excused easily due to the nature of their work. But they don’t automatically get excused because they’re famous, they’d have to petition for it like anybody else.

I heard Janeanne Garaffalo talk about serving jury duty on a lengthy case. It may have been a murder trial.

The reason I assumed that a movie star would be excused is that they may be shooting a movie and a delay of a week or two could cost the studio millions of dollars… and if George Clooney or Brad Pitt showed up for jury duty it would create chaos at the courthouse. That’s why I assumed they would get a free pass.

Everybody gets one or two chances to postpone if work-related stuff would conflict. Movie stars aren’t any different in that regard.

As a practical matter, movie stars tend to be rejected as jurors because of the attention/nuisance that they would cause. But they still have to show up.

When I served on a jury, the fact that my absence from work would be an inconvenience for my employer was not considered. (If I was self-employed or would not be paid for jury service, the loss of income to me would have been a consideration.) So I don’t think the court will care if an actor’s jury service will cost the studio millions of dollars. But I think you can request a postponement of your jury service for a few months if you’re a student or if you have specific travel plans. So an actor might try that.

They can apply to be excused, just like anybody else. If you were in the middle of a job where leaving could cost someone millions of dollars, there’s an extremely high chance you’ll be excused. (And depending on the State, you might get a couple “get out of Jury Duty free” cards you can play.)

The one time I was called for jury duty I was working at a business with a staff of 6 including the owner. Two of us were called at the same time. My boss called the court house and said he couldn’t afford to be short 1/3 of his staff and we were both excused.

He tried again a year later when one of us was called, but was told one employee wasn’t enough of a hardship. She only had to actually report once or twice and was never selected. She missed maybe 2 or three hours of work total.

Postponements are a possibility, but if the famous person ends up on the panel anyway they might still be able to beg off of serving on the jury. Work related inconveniences generally aren’t considered an automatic exemption from jury dury as a matter of law (because if it was everyone would claim it), but judges will often ask anyway and try to get the parties to mutually agree to excuse the inconvenienced juror if possible if the situation would work an unusual hardship on the panel member as well as others, e.g. it’s not uncommon for lawyers to agree to let a surgeon go if he’s got surgeries scheduled for later in the week. If an actor told the court “in three days we have a parade permit it took months to get to empty out Times Square to shoot a scene, I have several hundred extras and crew members whose paychecks depend on me shooting the scene, etc. etc.” it’s possible the lawyers would agree to let them go. In fact, it would be highly likely, since neither party would likely want the publicity of having the celebritiy on their jury. Nobody wants paparazzi staking out their house because Brad Pitt is serving on their jury.

I just served jury duty a two weeks ago in Brooklyn. The court clerk told us that they don’t like to have celebrities on the jury (since it invites paparazzi) and, instead, celebrities who get called for jury duty do something else (such as make a public service announcement about the importance of jury duty).

Zev Steinhardt

Lowly shlubs, juries are an important civil right, and jury duty is an important public service. Be glad you are asked to serve to promote justice for all. It’s an important duty in which we rich movie stars are not allowed to partake. :frowning: