Jury service; a citizen’s obligation
BY BRENDA BEHRLE
Clerk of Oneida County circuit court
Now and then, someone will tell me they’re excited to be selected for jury service. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
While it’s fair to say that most people aren’t thrilled with the prospect of jury duty, it’s important to pause and consider the importance of jury duty in a free society. The right to trial by jury is an American freedom that men and women have fought hard to preserve. Colonists felt that the right to trial by jury was one of the most important safeguards a free man could enjoy.
Years ago, voting lists were used to generate potential juror lists. That’s no longer the case in Wisconsin. Today, juror lists are generated with data obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). When lists need to be supplemented, the court may receive names from voting lists. At the present time, Oneida County relies solely on the data received from the DMV. All U.S. citizens, age 18 and older who are issued a Wisconsin driver’s license or photo I.D., are subject to random selection for a local jury pool.
In the days and weeks to come, the Oneida County Clerk of Circuit Court’s office will send approximately 1,800 juror qualification questionnaires. The purpose of the questionnaire is to determine eligibility for jury service; the questionnaire itself is not a summons to appear.
State law requires each person who receives a questionnaire to complete a set of questions and return the completed questionnaire within 10 days. Persons with internet access are encouraged to complete the form online. Failure to return the questionnaire to the clerk of court may result in a penalty including the possible forfeiture of $500.
The questions on the juror qualification questionnaire are straightforward and aimed at determining if a potential juror is eligible to be part of the 2017 jury pool. In order to be eligible for jury duty in Oneida County, a person must be a U.S. citizen, able to understand the English language, a resident of Oneida County, and 18 or older. In addition, persons must not have served jury duty within the last four years and not be a felon on supervision.
One misconception about jury service is that once a person has been convicted of a felony, that person may never serve on a jury. It is true that a felon cannot serve as a juror while serving a sentence. However, once the sentence is complete and the felon has been successfully discharged from said sentence, his/her civil rights are restored. Upon restoration of civil rights, a convicted felon regains the right to vote and is obligated to report for jury service, if summoned. Convicted felons may not, however, hold public office or possess firearms without a pardon from the Governor.
If you receive a juror qualification questionnaire in the mail, please take the time to answer the questions and return your response within 10 days.
If you have any questions about jury service, please call the clerk of court’s office at 715-369-6120 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.