A few years ago, my dad sat on the jury of a capital murder case at the Denton County Courthouse. It was a severe and difficult trial that took about five weeks in court to resolve. Not only was my dad there for every day of that trial, but he also wound up leading the jury! It was no small task. My dad was a business owner and had to make significant adjustments to his schedule to sit on the jury. It was frustrating, inconvenient, and disruptive. Still, he was happy to make the sacrifice for the greater good. I was staying with my parents at the time because I was trying a case in the same courthouse, and one night, my dad told me how gratifying jury work was.
That conversation stuck with me, and it was one of the first things I thought about when I opened my own jury duty summons this March. (Yes, lawyers can be called for jury service, too!) As a trial lawyer, I already spend a lot of time at the Dallas County Courthouse and have seen firsthand how the jury system brings justice, closure, and accountability to families. But I’m usually on the other side of the jury box. Going in as a juror was a totally different experience, and — no surprise — it was a long, difficult day from the minute I stepped into the courthouse.
First, I had to fill out a questionnaire I must have missed when registering online. Then, I shuffled from room to room with my fellow jurors. After hours without snacks, breaks, or opportunities to take phone calls, we finally made it to jury selection. The process went well into the lunch hour, leaving us confused, sleepy, and hungry. Ultimately, I wasn’t selected to serve on the jury — but I came away with several tips and takeaways. I hope you’ll think about these things next time you’re called for jury duty.
JURY DUTY SURVIVAL TIPS
- Plan to arrive early. Budget time to wander the building until you find the right room and complete anything you missed during online registration.
- Research your parking options before you go. Many courthouses offer discounted rates for jurors at particular lots. Visit the courthouse’s website to determine which lots are which, or take an Uber to avoid the hassle (that’s what I did). ]
- Bring water and plenty of snacks. Many courthouses don’t provide these, so it’s best to bring your own, especially if you need to eat regularly. You can fill up your water bottle inside the courthouse.
MY TWO BIGGEST TAKEAWAYS
1. You must hire a lawyer if you have a serious case and genuinely want justice. During my jury selection, I noticed the defendant had a lawyer, but the plaintiff didn’t — and that put them at a clear disadvantage. They didn’t know the rules of evidence or understand how to ask the right questions. Not every case requires a lawyer (we often give people with fender benders the resources to resolve them alone), but if you’re hit by a drunk driver, crushed by an 18-wheeler, or struggling with a daycare case, representing yourself puts you at a disadvantage.
2. Our justice system relies on the community to hold people accountable, and it’s gratifying to be a part of that. Like my dad, I didn’t mind rearranging my schedule for jury duty. Sure, it was a long and inconvenient day, but being considered as a juror was highly gratifying. It was a pleasure to be part of a collective, community-powered movement toward justice. I would have been proud to serve on a Dallas jury. Hopefully, I’ll get the chance one day!