How to get out of jury duty.

Think you have no say in getting on a jury?

Think again.

Here are some great tricks for getting out of jury duty.

OK, to be honest, no one can get out of jury duty completely (unless you’re friends with the county clerk, know what I mean?)  You’ve got two choices.  One…you can stack the cards so you don’t get selected.  Two: you can embrace the experience and stack the cards so you DO get selected.

First things first.  How do they get you on the list?  Officially, jurors are drawn from “lists that the state keeps in the regular course of business.”  Once you are on the list it’s almost impossible to get off.  There are lots of theories about which lists have your name on it.  One myth is that if you never register to vote, you’ll never get called for jury duty in New York City.  This is false.  My current theory is that it’s tied to city taxes and/or your driver’s license or state ID card.  And you need those.

At some point, you’re going to get called for jury duty.

So what to do when you get called?

Get it over with.

Do you have a salaried job?  Go for it.  You can think of this as a paid vacation AND you’re doing your civic duty.  Go in, sit back, relax, and bring stuff to do while you wait.


Ignore it.

Keep ignoring the summons until you get the one with the big red letters.  Take that one seriously.

Ask for a deferral

You can ask for a deferral for a variety of reasons (such as I’m not in town now).  You can get a deferral once or twice, but unless you move to another city, you can’t defer forever.  Hint:  if you ask for a deferral, ask for the maximum amount of time.

Just go in fer crissakes already!

Are you a freelancer, wait-staff, actor, consultant, bartender, full-time parent?  These excuses are not going to get you out of jury duty.  Throwing a fit will not help.  Pleading monetary hardship won’t either.  Being the only child-care giver sometimes work, but not always.  In these cases, your only hope is to try some of these ploys to avoid being selected.

How to avoid being selected

It’s pretty easy to avoid being selected for a jury.  There are only 2 rules:

  1. Talk. A lot.  About almost anything.
  2. State your opinions as though they are fact.

This last part comes totally naturally for some of you.  Others will find it more difficult.  Maybe you took a high school acting class?  Try those techniques.  Channel your crazy Aunt Susan.  Anything so you sound a little unhinged.

Here’s an example.  If the judge or lawyers ask a question, put your hand up right away.  “Do you know anyone who has ever been in a construction accident?” asks the lawyer.  Don’t just say “no.”  Start running your mouth.  Tell them about everyone you’ve ever met who was in any accident of any kind.  Become angry about it.  Use words like “It wasn’t fair that Taylor lost her license just because she didn’t see that stop sign!”  When they remind you that a traffic accident is not a construction accident, just say, “oh, that’s right.”  If they ask you “Can you still be fair and objective on a jury?”  Say, “absolutely.  I’m a very fair-minded person.”  No lawyer in his right mind will pick you.

How make it more likely you’ll get selected.

Let’s say you’re bored and need a break.  A few weeks on a jury might be just the ticket.  I can’t guarantee you’ll be selected, but here’s how to stack the cards in your favor.  Just make sure you’re the thickest, most ignorant, quietest one in the room.  Don’t talk until spoken to directly.  By anyone.  Keep repeating the same answer,  For example, when they ask “What is your profession?”  You can say “I don’t have one because I work at the liquor store.”  “What do you do at the liquor store?”  “I work there.”  “But what do you do while you are there?”  “I work.”  “But what do you do?”  “I work at a liquor store.”  (disclaimer: this tactic probably won’t work if you are a professor of economics, but it works like a charm for almost anyone else).  You’ll be on a jury in no time flat.  Why?  Because each lawyer will assume you’ll be putty in his or her hands.

Added tip:  say the words “I really hope you’ll pick me because I just love being on a jury”, and you are almost guaranteed to be out the door.

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