Going to court as a juror
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If you can't go to court
A summons to perform jury service is a legal document. If you're absent from court without an excusal from the deputy sheriff or judge, you may face a fine or period of imprisonment.
If you're sick and can't attend court on a required day, call the number on the summons between 8.30am and 9.15am. Provide the court with a medical certificate from your doctor confirming that you were sick and unable to attend court.
When to go to court
Some cases may take many days or weeks to complete; however, an average trial in the Supreme Court and District Court lasts 3-5 days.
During your summons period, you'll attend the courthouse (named on your summons) on certain days to go through the 'empanelment' process (to select a jury).
Each evening during the summons period, check the daily law lists or call the number on your summons to see if you'll be needed the next day. See your summons for:
- your panel number
- how long and when you'll be needed
- what courthouse you'll go to.
Trials may run longer than the summons period, but court staff will tell you if you'll be needed for longer.
On the first day you're required, there will be an orientation.
How long you stay at court will depend on whether you're empanelled on a jury:
- If you're not empanelled, you may be needed until the end of the empanelling process and then you'll be free to go until the next day you're required in your summons period.
- If you are empanelled, you'll start on the trial immediately and stay until court finishes for the day, usually around 4.30–5.00pm. If you're empanelled on a trial, you'll stay the whole day and every day until the trial is completed.
When you get to the courthouse
- When you arrive, go to the jury assembly area. The court officer will tell you where this is. (In Brisbane, it's Level 2, Queen Elizabeth II Courts of Law, 415 George Street, where the Supreme Court and District Court are located.)
- At the courthouse, a bailiff or other court officer will check your attendance. In some locations this may be done using an electronic device to:
- scan the barcode on your summons
- answer any other questions presented on the screen.
- If it's your first day, court staff will take you through an orientation, including:
- the layout of a courtroom
- the process of selecting a jury (empanelling)
- a short information video.
Ask the court staff if you don't understand something.
If you're late
If you know you're going to be late, contact the deputy sheriff on the number provided on your summons or the relevant courthouse in your region.
Once you do arrive, go directly to the jury assembly area and tell the bailiff or deputy sheriff you've arrived.
Empanelment is the random process for choosing jurors to serve on a particular trial.
It's impossible to tell which jury you will be on. In larger centres, there may be multiple trials commencing each day during your jury service period. You and the other prospective jurors will form a panel from which jurors will be randomly selected.
Before the trial, the bailiff takes you into court for the selection process. You stay at the back of the court during the process:
- Cards with each potential juror's name, town or suburb and occupation are placed in a rotating box.
- The judge's associate takes a card and calls the name or panel number of a juror.
- The juror walks to the bailiff at the front of the court to swear an oath or make an affirmation—a pledge—stating they will fulfil their service as a juror.
- At any time before the bailiff begins to recite the oath or affirmation, the prosecutor may say 'stand-by' or the defence counsel may call 'challenge', meaning the juror has not been selected to serve on that jury. The juror returns to the back of the court and the judge's associate selects another card.
- If a juror is not asked to 'stand by' or 'challenged', they are sworn or affirmed as a juror and then directed to a seat in the jury box. (Note: being challenged or asked to stand by is no reflection on your character or ability.)
The process is repeated until the jury is formed—usually 12 for a criminal trial and 4 for a civil trial (unless the judge empanels reserve jurors—see below).
You may have to go through this process several times during the day, as well as during your period of jury service. The deputy sheriff's office or bailiff will tell you when you're free to leave.
If you're empanelled, the judge will then explain your role as a juror and how you should conduct yourself during the trial.
Find out what happens when you serve on a jury.
The judge may decide to choose up to three reserve jurors, particularly if the trial is likely to be long. The process for selecting reserve jurors is the same as for normal jurors.
During the trial, they sit in court each day and listen to the evidence as the jury does and are bound by the same rules.
Once the trial starts, if a juror becomes ill or is discharged for some reason, the first reserve juror replaces the discharged juror and so on.
When a jury retires to consider its verdict, any reserve juror who hasn't taken a place on the jury is discharged from the trial.
Oath or affirmations
Tell the bailiff before you enter court whether you prefer to swear an oath or make an affirmation.
Being excused from jury service
This is your last chance to be excused from jury service. Let the bailiff know you want to apply to be excused from service and the judge will ask you why and make the decision.
Questions about going to court
Parking and transport
There are no dedicated juror parking facilities at any courthouses. We do not pay parking fees that you may incur while participating in any stage of jury service.
Consider the public transport available in your area, and the time you'll need to leave home to get to the court on time.
Within the Brisbane area, see TransLink for public transport options.
Check what travel allowance you may receive for your travel to court.
After you have received a summons, you can enter your travel expense claims via the QJuror portal here.
What to bring
You will bring:
- your summons in electronic or paper form
- something to read or to keep you busy (optional) as you may have to wait for some time
- mobile phone (optional) though you must turn it off in court and give it to the bailiff before entering the court or jury room each day (and in an emergency, a message can be left at the sheriff's office in Brisbane or the courthouse outside Brisbane).
If empanelled on a jury, lunch may be provided. You should bring money as the judge may let the jury out to buy lunch (meal allowances will be paid weekly).
What to wear
You don't have to wear a suit but you should show the court respect by dressing neatly. Consider bringing a jumper or jacket as you may find the courthouse gets cool at certain parts of the day.
Payment for jury service
You receive an allowance for going to court and being a juror on a trial. See the payments and allowances section for details.