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How to be exempted from jury service

Introduction

The most common way of being exempted from jury service is to apply to the Registrar of the court to excuse you on one of the available grounds (see below).

In addition, certain people are disqualified from being jurors.

Who are disqualified from jury service?

Lists of prospective jurors are compiled from registered voters on the electoral roll.

However, the following people are disqualified from being jurors:

  • people who have at any time been sentenced to a prison term of three years or more, or to preventive detention; and people who in the last five years have been sentenced to a prison term of three months or more or to corrective training
  • members of Parliament
  • people involved with the justice system, such as judges, Justices of the Peace, practising lawyers, Police officers, prison officers, probation officers, and people employed in the Ministry of Justice or the Department of Corrections
  • people who are mentally disordered

How can people who are not disqualified be excused from jury service?

There are essentially six ways in which you may be excused from jury service:

  •  
    • Before the jury is finally selected, the Registrar or a member of the Registrar's staff may apply to the judge to discharge a juror on the ground that, because of a physical disability, the juror is incapable of acting effectively as a juror.
    • After the jury is constituted, but before the trial begins, a judge may discharge a juror if it is brought to the judge's attention that the juror is personally involved in the facts of the case or closely connected with one of the parties or witnesses, or is not capable of acting effectively as a juror in the proceedings because of a physical disability.
    • A judge may discharge a juror at any time before a verdict is reached if the juror is incapable of continuing as a juror or is disqualified, or if a relative of the juror is ill or has died, or if the juror is personally involved in the facts of the case or closely connected with one of the parties or witnesses.
  • Application to Registrar
  • – If you are summonsed for jury duty you may apply in writing to the Registrar of the court to excuse you on the grounds of your occupation, business, state of health, physical disability, family commitments or other personal circumstances. You have to satisfy the Registrar that you or some other person would be caused undue hardship or serious inconvenience if you were not excused. Further, the Registrar must excuse you if you are 65 or over, if your religious beliefs are incompatible with jury service, or if you have attended for jury service or served as a juror in the last two years.
  • Appeal to judge from Registrar's decision
  • – If the Registrar denies your request, you may appeal the Registrar's decision to the judge before whom the jury is being selected. You can do this either by making oral submissions to the judge, or by asking the Registrar to place a written application before the judge.
  • Application to judge directly
  • – Whether or not the Registrar has already declined to excuse you, you have the right to apply to the judge directly on any of the grounds on which you could have applied to the Registrar (see above). The judge can also excuse you if satisfied that you are personally involved in the facts of the case or closely connected with one of the parties or witnesses. The judge can also excuse you if satisfied that you object to jury service on the grounds of conscience, whether your objections are religious or otherwise.
  • Change in trial venue
  • – If the trial is moved to another location you may be excused if attending would require you to travel 30 kilometres or more by the most practical route to the changed venue.
  • Not being selected as a juror
  • – You may simply not be required for jury duty. This may happen because you have been challenged by one of the lawyers in the case. However, even if you haven't been challenged, the final jury panel goes through a selection process by ballot, and you may simply not be selected in this process. Jurors can be challenged by either side on the grounds that they are not qualified or are disqualified from being a juror, or on the grounds that they are not impartial. In addition each side can challenge up to six jurors without giving a reason ("challenge without cause").
  • Being discharged by the judge
  • – A juror may also be discharged by a judge, which can happen in one of several ways:
Cautionary notes
  • Once you undertake jury duty you are bound to serve until a verdict has been given.


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