New Missouri Law Leaves Few Excuses for Avoiding Jury Duty

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If you claim you can’t serve jury duty because of a physical or financial hardship, bring a doctor’s note or a state or federal income tax return – or the request to be excused is likely to be refused, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. And those personal documents may sit forever, supposedly under seal, in a vault or storage room or closet at the nearest courthouse. The new provisions are contained in legislation aimed at perceived jury slackers and signed into law last week by Gov. Bob Holden.

Judges and court officials are scrambling to decide how to deal with the new rules by Aug. 28. Besides the new requirements for documenting hardships, the measure also removes the exemption for lawyers, who now can serve on a jury for the first time; allows clergy to serve on a jury; continues to exempt doctors, dentists and pharmacists if they provide a written statement that their absence would be detrimental to patients; allows one postponement of jury duty but requires the prospective juror to set up a new date within six months, and doubles the potential fine for no-shows while adding community service as a potential punishment.


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