Jury Service

Jury Service

The right to a trial by jury is a cornerstone of American democracy, guaranteed by both the State and Federal Constitutions.

The Nebraska State Bar Foundation has created a video for jurors which provides basic information about jury service and the jury trial process.  The video discusses the privilege and responsibility of serving on a jury, how jurors make a difference, and what jurors can expect of this rewarding experience. 

The presentation can be viewed at this link:  https://www.nebarfnd.org/civics-education/juror-orientation-video.

There are two types of juries in Nebraska:  

  1. Trial Jury, sometimes known as a petit jury. The trial jury decides both criminal and civil cases and may consist of 6 or 12 members. These jury trials take place in the courtroom, in the presence of the judge, the jury, the attorneys and the public.  In a criminal case, a person accused of a crime may confront witnesses and may be convicted only when each juror is convinced of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a civil case, a trial jury decides whether the plaintiff has provided enough evidence that it is more likely than not (preponderance of the evidence) that the defendant injured the plaintiff in some way that requires compensation. The information below describes the process of a trial jury.
  2. Grand Jury.  The function of a grand jury is entirely different than the trial jury.  It consists of 16 members and 3 alternates whose functions are conducted in secrecy.  The grand jury has the responsibility to investigate charges of crimes and, if the investigation warrants, to make an accusation against an individual by returning an indictment against the person.  The decision to indict is normally made solely on the basis of the state’s evidence without the accused person having the opportunity to present his or her side of the case.

This site provides general statewide information. To get answers to specific questions about jury service in your county, please contact your local jury commissioner. In most cases, the Clerk of the District Court serves as the jury commissioner. If the Clerk doesn’t serve as commissioner, he or she will know who does.

Juror Responsibilities

  • While serving on a jury panel, you will be requested to assume certain responsibilities.
  • Please be prompt. A trial cannot begin or continue until all jury members are present.
  • Do not research the case in any way – in person, through other people or online.
  • Do not discuss the case with anyone, including your spouse, relatives, friends, trial participants, or fellow jurors. If anyone attempts to talk to you about the case, report the incident to the judge, bailiff, or court clerk as soon as possible. After deliberations begin in the jury room, jurors can discuss the case only among themselves.
  • Do not conduct independent case investigations such as visiting the scene of an accident or an alleged crime unless the judge instructs and arranges for the entire jury panel to do so. An unauthorized inspection can result in an expensive retrial of the case.
  • Listen carefully to all questions, testimony, and instructions. Your decision can be based only upon the evidence presented in the trial.
  • Additional information on the use of electronic devices (cell phones, portable electronics, internet, and social networking).

If you have any questions while serving on a jury, please address your communications to the judge, either directly or through the bailiff.

Jury Selection

You were selected to serve on a jury from a county voter registration, state I. D., or driver’s license list.  An impartial, random method of selection from these lists is required by law.

To qualify as a juror you must:

  • be a United States citizen
  • be 19 years of age or older
  • be physically and mentally capable

You may be disqualified from serving on a jury for the following reasons:

  • If you have been convicted of a felony when the conviction has not been set aside or a pardon issued
  • If you are a judge, clerk of a district court, a sheriff, or a jailer
  • If your spouse has been summoned for the same jury panel
  • If you or your spouse have a pending jury trial in any court

You may be excused from serving on a jury

If you intend to request to be excused from jury service for any reason, immediately notify the clerk of the court who has summoned you in writing.  Your request will be reviewed by a judge.

You are not required to serve when called for jury duty if within the past 5 years you have served as a petit juror for more than 4 weeks, served on more than one grand jury, or served on both a grand jury and a petit jury.

Individuals who are 70 years or older can be exempt from jury services by submitting a written request.

Jury service may be postponed by the judge if you can submit a written request and show undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, or public necessity. If your request for postponement is granted, it will be for a limited period.  You may use the Application for Postponement of Jury Service (DC 8:4) form to request a postponement.

Persons claiming either physical or mental disability as an excuse from jury service shall be required to supply a physician’s statement of disability.

A nursing mother can be excused if she submits a written request and a physician's certificate that supports her request.

An active duty member of the military can be exempt by submitting a written request and documentation of active duty status.

Don't Forget

You may be found in contempt of court if you fail to respond to a jury summons without good cause, if you fail to answer the qualifications form, or if you misrepresent anything on the form.

Contact the jury commissioner or clerk of court if you have questions regarding your eligibility or responsibility to serve as a juror.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will I serve on a jury?
Your service on a jury depends upon the court’s need and the length of the trials in which you will be serving. Jury trials can vary from 1 day to several weeks.

Will I be paid for jury service?
For each required day you will receive $35 per day plus mileage.

How will I get paid?
The clerk of the court will submit your name and address to the county clerk, who will issue your check. If no mileage amount is submitted, the clerk’s office will figure the distance based on their map. Checks are generally mailed out between 2 and 4 weeks after your jury service has ended.

How should I dress for jury service?
Wear comfortable clothing which reflects the seriousness of jury service.

Will my employer allow me to take time off for jury service?
State law prohibits your employer from penalizing you. You cannot be fired, lose pay (except that your employer may reduce your pay by the $35 per day you receive for jury duty), lose sick leave, or lose vacation time.

You must give your employer reasonable notice that you have received a jury summons. Any person summoned must be excused by their employer, upon the juror’s request, from any shift work. For printable information explaining jury service to your employer, click or send them a link to:  http://supremecourt.ne.gov/sites/supremecourt.ne.gov/files/misc/jury-service/employer-brochure.pdf

What should I do if I have an illness or an emergency during jury service?
Should an illness or an emergency arise during your jury service, inform the judge, bailiff or court clerk immediately and explain the situation.

Will I have to stay overnight?
Usually you will not be required to stay longer than the normal afternoon or evening adjournment time.

Occasionally, it becomes necessary to keep a jury overnight, which is called “sequestering the jury.” Should this happen, you may telephone a relative or friend to bring personal necessities. The court will pay for your meals and lodging.

Where do I park my car?
Most courts have both on- and off-street parking. Call the clerk of your court and check parking in your area.

What should I do when I report to the courthouse for jury service?
Check with the clerk of the district court’s office or follow the instructions on the jury summons.

What is my job as a juror?
Members of a jury are fact finders. Jurors are the sole judges of the credibility of the witnesses and must decide the value of the testimony of each witness. The jury must listen very carefully to all of the evidence and then decide the factual issues in the case.

May I take notes during the trial?
Nebraska jurors are permitted, but not required, to take notes during trials. Notes may be used during jury deliberations, but are confidential between the juror taking the notes and the other jurors. Court staff will destroy all notes immediately after the verdict is announced.

What is the difference between a civil case and a criminal case?
A civil case is a dispute between or among two or more persons or corporations in which the plaintiff asks the court to protect a right or to recover money or property from the defendant.

The plaintiff brings the case to the court. The defendant is the party being sued. When the defendant disputes the plaintiff’s claim, he or she files an answer to the plaintiff’s petition.

A criminal case is a trial brought in the name of the State of Nebraska against a person charged with violating the criminal law.

The State is represented by the prosecuting attorney. The person charged is called the defendant. Criminal cases are punishable by probation, fine, imprisonment, or death. The jury does not sentence the defendant. Sentences are imposed by the judge. 

The Trial

Who are the trial participants?
A jury trial involves many people directly or indirectly. As a juror, you are an officer of the court who listens to all the evidence and arguments presented in a trial to reach a decision in the case.

The judge conducts the trial; rules on questions of law raised by the attorneys, and at the close of the trial, instructs the jury on the law that applies to the case.

The attorneys are employed by the parties or appointed by the court to advise the parties on the law and represent them at the trial.

The prosecuting attorney represents the State of Nebraska in all criminal cases.

Witnesses present testimony under oath, indicating what they have seen or know about the facts in a case.  A witness may testify as an expert based on professional experience.

The clerk of the court is responsible for court records, summonses, subpoenas, collection of fines, and other court business. The court reporter transcribes a word-for-word record of all court testimony and proceedings.

The bailiff maintains courtroom order and assists the jurors.

What is the order of trial events?
A trial consists of a sequence of events in a specific order as determined by law.

OPENING STATEMENTS: Each attorney states his or her claim and may briefly state the evidence in support of the claim. The attorneys outline what they will show during the trial. Opening statements are not evidence. Opening statements are made to give you a general idea of what to expect when the evidence is introduced.

EVIDENCE: The plaintiff’s attorney presents evidence first. This is called direct examination.

The defendant has the right to examine this evidence. This is called cross-examination. Then the defendant’s attorney has the opportunity to present evidence.

Following the defendant’s introduction of evidence, the plaintiff has the right to cross-examine the witnesses presented by the defendant. The plaintiff has the right to present rebuttal evidence which can be cross-examined by the defendant’s attorney.

CLOSING ARGUMENTS: After all the evidence has been presented, the plaintiff’s and defendant’s attorneys argue their case to the jury. The closing arguments are not evidence.

What happens after the completion of testimony? 
The judge will instruct you about the law regarding the case. You must base your decisionmaking and discussion on the judge’s instructions regarding the law, rather than on your own idea of what the law is or ought to be.

You and the other members of the jury will retire to the jury room for deliberations and select one person to be the foreperson. He or she will preside at your deliberations and bring your verdict into court.

  • Your deliberations should be characterized by a free and fearless expression of your own opinions and patient, tolerant attention to the opinions of others.
  • While you must base your decision upon the evidence presented in the case, you should also keep in mind what the judge may have said about weighing the evidence, how to decide what evidence to believe, and the burden of proof. You must keep in mind all of the court’s instructions concerning the law.
  • In many civil cases, you may have to determine whether there is any liability to pay damages and, if so, how much. It is suggested that you determine the issue of liability first, independently of the issue of the amount of damages. One reason for this is to avoid a compromise on the question of liability in exchange for a compromise on the amount of damages. Such a compromise would not be just and would violate your duty as a juror.

In a civil case, if the jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict within 6 hours of deliberations, then a verdict arrived at by 10 of a 12-person jury or 5 of a 6-person jury may be returned.

In a criminal case, jury deliberations conclude when a unanimous verdict has been reached. If after lengthy deliberations the jury is unable to agree on a verdict, the foreperson must notify the judge. The jury has nothing to do with sentencing the defendant if the jury returns a guilty verdict.

What happens after a verdict is reached by the jury?
Generally, when the jury has agreed on a verdict, the foreperson returns to the courtroom, where the verdict is given to the judge and read and recorded by the clerk.
All jurors must be present when the verdict is returned. You must keep your verdict secret until it is brought into court.

Do I have to tell anyone how or why I voted?
After the trial is completed and you are dismissed by the judge, you are not obligated to answer questions presented by attorneys or the press. If unwarranted questions persist, contact the judge immediately.

Jury Security

You should not allow fear of criticism or retaliation to prevent you from doing your duty and rendering a just verdict. The full power and authority of the court will be used to protect you both during and after the trial. If you have a particular reason to fear for your safety, promptly inform the bailiff or judge.

Serving on a Jury

The administration of justice is not a process in which shortcuts should be taken simply to speed up the procedure. The determination of truth and the fair and equitable application of the laws are important. By serving on a jury you have the privilege of providing direct input into the administration of justice. In addition, you will probably find your participation as an officer of the court to be both interesting and educational.