As it has been ever since the days of the Pilgrims, jury service today remains one of the cornerstones of our system of government. Jury service is truly “government in the hands of the people.” Ordinary men and women come together to settle disputes between their fellow citizens, or to resolve criminal charges, by hearing evidence, deliberating together, and taking responsibility for the administration of justice by rendering a verdict.
The One Day or One Trial System
Massachusetts was the first state in the country to adopt the One Day or One Trial jury system statewide, beginning in 1979. By 1988, the implementation of the One Day or One Trial system was complete throughout the Commonwealth.
Previously, jurors were required to serve for 30 days, and might sit on two or more trials during their service. Now, all jurors in the Commonwealth must serve for just one day or the duration of one trial (if impaneled on a case). Most cases (but not all) take three days or less to complete, so jurors should be prepared to stay for at least three days if necessary when they report for service.
The One Day or One Trial system is now the most common system of jury service in the nation. Participation as a juror under the prior, 30-day term of service imposed such a heavy burden on those summoned to serve that exemptions were necessary, and many people were excluded. As a result of the large number of citizens who qualified for exemptions under the old system, the jury pools did not accurately represent an inclusive cross-section of the community.
Today, there are no exemptions from jury service, and only ten disqualifications (such as lack of citizenship, certified medical inability to serve, incarceration, and the like). The inconvenience and hardship of the 30-day term of service has been eliminated, as each juror serves for a much shorter period of time.
Length of service. In general, around 90% of jurors complete their service in one day, and around 95% are done in three days or less. If a trial is expected to last for more than three days, the judge will inform the prospective jurors and they will have the opportunity to request a hardship excuse when they speak with the judge.
Postponement and Transfer. Jurors are entitled to postpone their service to a more convenient date of their choice, for up to a year from their original date of service. In the case of a true hardship, prospective jurors may request a transfer to a more convenient location within their judicial district, such as a court that is served by public transportation.
First postponements are automatically and immediately allowed, and can be scheduled by the juror on the Juror Service Website using the Badge Number and PIN that is found on the Summons or Reminder Notice. Requests for transfers or disqualifications can also be submitted on the Juror Service Website , or by calling 1-800-THE-JURY (1-800-843-5879).
Compensation. One of the most common reasons for exemption under the prior system was occupational: too many people were unable to be absent from their jobs for the 30-day term of service. Doctors, teachers, law enforcement personnel, clergy and many others were exempt from service as a result. Also, many prospective jurors could not afford the loss of income, and many employers were unable to compensate their employees while also paying for replacement workers during their absence.
Under the One Day or One Trial system, the juror’s employer pays the juror’s regular wages for the first three days of service, and the Commonwealth pays $50.00 per day from the fourth day on. Self-employed and unemployed jurors receive no compensation for the first three days, but are also entitled to the $50.00 daily payment from the state if they serve four days or more. For more information, see our FAQ on juror compensation.
Who must serve. Any United States citizen aged 18 or over who lives in Massachusetts for six months of the year or more, and is not otherwise disqualified, is eligible for jury service. This includes out-of-state residents who attend college in Massachusetts (inhabitants) and Massachusetts residents who attend school out of state (residents). The Office of Jury Commissioner will work with you to find a convenient date for your service if you are a resident living temporarily outside the state, or an inhabitant living in Massachusetts.
As a result of these and other innovations brought about as part of the One Day or One Trial system, today’s jury pools are much more diverse and representative than they were under the prior system. For more information on jury service today, please refer to our FAQ section , e-mail us at JurorHelp@jud.state.ma.us, or call us Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at 1-800-THE-JURY (1-800-843-5879).