For jurors

General information

Frequently asked questions

Note: Linked terms are defined in the glossary.

Why is jury service important?
The right to a trial by jury is the cornerstone of our country's justice system. A juror has a vital role to play in Wisconsin's court system!

How was my name selected?
A person selected for jury service must be chosen at random from a source list using the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s list of people with motor vehicle licenses or identification cards who live in the area served by that circuit court. Some counties may use additional source lists. For county specific information on source lists follow the links on the county contacts page.

How are jurors selected?
The rules for jury trials come from the law, tradition, and experience. In summary, the steps are as follows:

Must I serve as a juror?
Yes. The law requires all qualified state citizens be available to serve as jurors. Not all persons summoned actually serve as a juror. A person may not be selected as a result of a process known as "voir dire" (pronounced vwa deer) whereby the parties in the case (and the judge in some circumstances) ask questions to determine potential juror's qualifications or degree of impartiality to serve on a particular trial.

The court may excuse a person from jury service if the court determines the person cannot fulfill the responsibilities of a juror. If the court determines jury service would entail undue hardship, extreme inconvenience, serious obstruction or delay of justice, the court may defer service to a later date set by the court. The court may require a person document the basis for any excuse or deferral.

What are the qualifications to serve as a juror?
Every Wisconsin resident of the county served by a circuit court who is at least 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, and is able to understand the English language is qualified to serve as a juror in that court unless he or she has been convicted of a felony and has not had his or her civil rights restored. The most important qualities of a juror are fairness and impartiality. A juror must lay aside all bias and prejudice. A juror is the foundation of our judicial system, and his or her actions and decisions should reflect this important role.

What are my duties as a juror?
There are basically two types of cases jurors hear: criminal and civil. The duty of the jury in a criminal case is to decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty as to each charge or count against him. The duty of the jury in a civil case is to decide what actually happened, since the parties do not agree with each other on the facts. The judge gives the jurors the legal rules, and they apply those rules to the evidence to reach a conclusion. The jury will be asked to draw conclusions from the evidence and often to say how much money will compensate a party for a wrong or injury.

I do not know the law. How can I be a juror?
The judge will explain to the jury the rules of law that apply to the case and explain the decisions jurors must make. These written instructions are based upon years of judicial experience and many past cases. The jury must accept and follow the rules of law as given by the judge. A juror may disagree about the facts presented during the trial, but should not allow any personal disagreement with the law to influence his or her decision.

How long will I be here if I am picked for a trial? Do the courts stop at 4:30 p.m.?
Most courts schedule trials during normal working hours. However, it is not uncommon for a trial or deliberations to go into the evening. It is best to make arrangements for this should you be required to stay later.

What should I wear?
Dress comfortably, but avoid extremes in dress; for instance, ragged cutoff jeans/T-shirts or clothing with inappropriate or offensive writing on them. There are usually no prescribed dress codes, but judges have been known to order people to reappear in appropriate attire. Your summons may have specific instructions on dress requirements.

Back to top

I do not drive. Will the Court provide transportation?
Public transportation may be available or arranged by the court. Go to the county website where you are selected as a juror to review any transportation policy that specific jurisdiction might have.

What if I have an emergency during jury duty?
Report any emergencies to the court, the bailiff or the court clerk.

Will I have to stay overnight?
Most trials last only one day. When a trial does last longer, the judge usually adjourns so you can return home each day at a reasonable hour. Rarely are you required to stay overnight.

Is there an age restriction?
There is no upper age limitation with respect to jurors. However, you must be at least 18 years of age.

What should I do if I need special accommodations?
It is the policy of the Wisconsin Court System that its programs, services and activities be accessible to qualified individuals with disabilities. No person will be refused participation solely because the person has a disability, needs an accommodation or because a building is inaccessible. If you have a disability that will require an accommodation by the court to allow you to serve as a juror, please notify the Clerk of Circuit Court Office for your county as soon as possible. To identify your Clerk's office check the county contacts page.

What if I have trouble hearing the procedures in court?
Report any concerns, including problems with hearing, to the bailiff or court clerk. Many courts can make accommodations for this through assisted listening devices and real time court reporting. If this is a concern for you prior to your jury service, contact your local Clerk of Circuit Court office.

I have been convicted of a crime, can I still serve?
Only individuals convicted of a felony crime would not be eligible to serve as a juror while completing their sentence. Once a person convicted of a felony has served a term of imprisonment or otherwise completed his sentence, including probation, his civil rights are automatically restored and he or she is eligible for jury duty.

How was my name selected?
A person selected for jury service must be selected at random from a source list using the Wisconsin Department of Transportation's list of people with motor vehicle licenses or identification cards who live in the area served by that circuit court. Some counties may use additional source lists. For county specific information on source lists, check with your county.

How are jurors selected?
The rules for jury trials come from the law, tradition, and experience. In summary, the steps are as follows:

  1. Jurors are sworn to answer truthfully all questions about their qualifications for the case.
  2. The judge and attorneys ask questions of the prospective jurors (voir dire).
  3. The judge excuses a limited number of jurors which each lawyer has a right to ask be excused without giving a reason (peremptory challenges), and also may excuse additional jurors who may not be impartial in the cases (challenges for cause).
  4. The final jury panel then is selected and sworn to fairly and impartially decide the case.

Back to top

What types of cases will I hear?
There are basically two types of cases: criminal and civil. In a criminal case the State of Wisconsin, as plaintiff, is seeking the conviction of a party accused of committing a crime. The State is represented by the District Attorney or by an Assistant District Attorney. The jury in a criminal case decides if the defendant is guilty or not guilty as to each charge or count against him. The penalty, if any, is the sole responsibility of the judge and should not concern you as a juror.

In a criminal case, the defendant is presumed innocent unless he is proven guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt." If the charge has not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then you must find the accused not guilty; if the charge has been adequately proven, then you should find the accused guilty.

Traffic offenses and ordinance violations also may be presented to a jury. The defendant may be accused of violating a state statute or a county, city or village ordinance. In all of these trials, the jury also decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty of each charge. Some traffic offenses are criminal cases and others are civil. All ordinance violations are civil cases.

Civil cases result from disagreements between two or more parties and include actions relating to marriage, real estate, contracts, injuries or money. The plaintiff is the party who starts the lawsuit by filing a complaint; the defendant is the party being sued by the plaintiff. The defendant files an answer if he or she denies plaintiff's claim, and sometimes files a counterclaim, which is a claim directed back against the plaintiff.

Your duty as a juror in a civil case is to decide what actually happened, since the parties do not agree with each other on the facts. The judge gives you the legal rules, and you apply those rules to the evidence to reach a conclusion. The jury will be asked to draw conclusions from the evidence and may be asked to recommend how much money will compensate a party for a wrong or injury.

How long does a trial last?
While long trials often receive much publicity, they are very rare. Most trials last a day and, at the most, a few days.

What happens during a trial?
Check the oultine of a jury trial page.

Why are there delays while the jurors are waiting?
There are two points in the process when jurors may be asked to wait. The first is before being selected to hear the case and the second is during the trial.

1. Jurors only are summoned to the courthouse when a trial is scheduled, and the parties have indicated they do want a jury trial. However, cases often are settled at the very last minute, "on the courthouse steps." For example, when the jury is ready to hear the case, the parties may work out a last-minute compromise, rather than gamble on what the jury will decide. Or, the defendant in a criminal case may decide to plead guilty.

This last minute activity may seem very inefficient and inconsiderate to you, especially if you are at the courthouse waiting. But constitutional protections are involved that cannot be denied, and even a last minute settlement or guilty plea saves the court time, and therefore saves the jurors' time and the taxpayers' money.

2. There also may be delays, or what appear to be delays, during the course of a trial -- witnesses may not have arrived; the judge or attorneys may need to research a legal question; a brief matter requiring the judge's attention on an emergency basis may arise. Also, some routine matters, such as the preparation of jury instructions, must take place outside of the hearing of the jury. This is not a delay, but merely part of the trial process. Delays are only permitted when necessary. The court understands that jurors have taken time from their personal lives to serve and therefore makes every effort to use jurors' time wisely.

Back to top

Can I take notes or ask questions during the trial?
After the jury has been sworn in, the judge will determine if you may take notes during the proceedings. If you are permitted to take notes, they should not interfere with your concentration or observation of the court proceedings. When you are reviewing your notes, remember that they are not evidence, but your interpretation of the facts presented to you. All notes will be collected and destroyed at the conclusion of the trial, pursuant to s. 805.13(2)(1), Wis. Stats. The judge may allow a juror to ask questions during a trial. These questions are subject to objection by the attorneys.

How long does jury service last?
A person is eligible for jury services once every two to four years. The courts in each county set their own term of service not to exceed 31 consecutive days. No person can be required to serve/attend court as a juror more than five days unless selected to a trial that may require more days. For county-specific details on the jury system and terms of service check with your county.

How long will I be required to serve on a trial?
Once selected to serve on a trial you will be required to serve for the length of that trial. The judge will explain to you what type of case you will be hearing and how long the case is expected to last. If you have any conflicts with sitting on the case for the length of the trial, you should let the court know (this is done during the voir dire process).

Will I be paid for jury duty? When will I be paid?
Yes. Every juror summoned is paid an amount set by the county board (not less than $16/day) for each day of attendance and reimbursed for travel. Some counties may pay jurors by the half-day. Please check with your specific county as to when payment is made.

How may I be excused from jury service or have jury service postponed?
The court understands that there are situations that may require a postponement of your jury service. Check your county jury website for the postponement policy for that specific jurisdiction. Note: Some requests for postponements must be received prior to receiving a summons. Please inform the court of a potential conflict as soon as you receive information regarding jury service.

How can I reach the Jury Office?
Most jurisdictions will provide contact information on the information sent to you. Or, you may go to the county website for that specific jurisdiction.

Back to top

Can my employer discipline or fire me?
No. Jury service is a civic duty. State law protects your job. Your employer cannot fire you, demote you, threaten or intimidate you because of jury service. For more information check the information for employers page.

Does my employer have to pay me if I am on jury duty?
State law does not require employers to continue paying the salary of employees who are absent because of jury service. Many employers, however, including state, federal and local governmental agencies, have a policy of compensating employees for at least part, if not all, of the time spent for jury service. Check with your employer on their policy.

Is my privacy protected during and after the trial? What do I do if the media asks me questions about the trial?
Unless specifically instructed by the court not to speak about the case or the deliberation process, once the verdict is given to the court jurors may talk to anyone they wish about their experience as a juror. This includes the attorneys or the media. No juror is obligated to talk about the case; it is your choice. The court hopes if you choose to talk about the case you will respect the privacy of fellow jurors and only speak of your own experience and opinions. A juror who feels threatened or harassed by requests to talk about the case should report that to the judge.

In some cases where the court has determined the need, the names and addresses of jurors are withheld from the parties and the public. These rare instances are called anonymous juries. Judges also have the discretion, after the case, to seal the records of jurors who serve so that information about jurors only may be released if the judge approves. Otherwise, in keeping with our system of holding court open to public scrutiny, the record of who serves as a juror is a public record.

The privacy of jurors is important to the courts, which is why every effort is made to guard juror privacy and only collect that information necessary to ensure eligibility to serve and complete the selection process.

Now that I am excused, do I have to go back to work?
Check with your employer. Going back to work for a partial shift varies by what type of work you do and whether it would be productive for you and your employer to have you back in the middle of a shift.

Back to top

Back to general information