Welcome to the Federal Court. Jury duty is an important aspect of citizenship and we thank you for your time and service.
Jury service is a direct means for citizens to participate in the judicial process. Jurors make decisions that have an impact on individual's lives, property and liberty. The jury, as an institution, has a long and distinquished history. As early as the English Magna Carta (1215), it was hailed as the protector of individual rights and liberties. In the U.S. Constitution, the Sixth Amendment provides for impartial jury trials in criminal cases. The Fifth Amendment guarantees the right to a grand jury indictment. The Seventh Amendment provides for juries in certain civil cases.
There are 2 types of juries serving distinct functions in the federal trial courts:
Petit (Trial) Jury: A civil petit jury is typically made up of 6 to 12 persons. In a civil case, the role of the jury is to listen to the evidence presented at a trial, to decide whether the defendant injured the plaintiff or otherwise failed to fulfill a legal duty to the plaintiff, and to determine what the compensation or penalty should be. A criminal petit jury is usually made up of 12 members. Criminal juries decide whether the defendant committed the crime as charged. The sentence usually is set by a judge. Verdicts in both civil and criminal cases must be unanimous, although the parties in a civil case may agree to a non-unanimous verdict. A jury's deliberations are conducted in private, out of sight and hearing of the judge, litigants, witnesses, and others in the courtroom. Please see Handbook for Trial Jurors for more information.
Grand Jury: A grand jury, which normally consists of 16 to 23 members, has a more specialized function. The United States attorney, the prosecutor in federal criminal cases, presents evidence to the grand jury for them to determine whether there is "probable cause" to believe that an individual has committed a crime and should be put on trial. If the grand jury decides there is enough evidence, it will issue an indictment against the defendant. Grand jury proceedings are not open for public observation. Please see Handbook for Grand Jurors for more information.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1861, all litigants "have the right to grand and petit jurors selected at random from a fair cross section of the community." This court uses a two-step process to select jurors. First, a master jury wheel is created by selecting names at random from a combined list of registered voters and licensed drivers in the District of Montana. Then, individuals whose names have been randomly drawn from the master jury wheel are sent qualification questionnaires. The Court reviews the answers of the questionnaires to determine whether individuals are qualified to serve. The names of those individuals deemed qualified are put on a second wheel, a qualified jury wheel. As prospective jurors are needed, the court randomly selects individuals from the qualified jury wheel to be summoned for jury duty. All of these selections are carried out through an electronic processing system programmed for pure randomized selection. The pure randomized process ensures that the mathematical odds of any single name being picked are substantially equal and that jurors represent a fair cross section of the community, without regard to race, gender, national origin, age or political affiliation.
Being summoned for jury service does not guarantee that an individual actually will serve on a jury. When a jury is needed for a trial, the group of qualified jurors is taken to the courtroom where the trial will take place. The judge and the attorneys then ask the potential jurors questions to determine their suitability to serve on the jury, a process called voir dire. The purpose of voir dire is to exclude from the jury people who may not be able to decide the case fairly. Members of the panel who know any person involved in the case, who have information about the case, or who may have strong prejudices about the people or issues involved in the case, typically will be excused by the judge. The attorneys also may exclude a certain number of jurors without giving a reason.
Information above was obtained from the U.S. Courts Jury Service website. Please visit this site for more information.
To review the juror orientation movie, please click HERE.
Judges grant deferrals or excuses for vacations, illness, or extreme hardships. Work related excuses, self employment or otherwise, do not constitute extreme hardships. Lack of auto transportation is not grounds for an excuse, except in areas where bus transportation does not exist. If you feel you must request a deferral or excuse from jury duty, please follow the instructions in your Summons.
Reporting Instructions: When reporting, please have government issued photo identification (e.g., drivers license, military identification, etc.) available to gain admittance into the building. Cameras, cellular phones, e-readers, other cellular/wireless devices and laptops are not allowed in any of the Montana federal courthouses. Please leave these items in your vehicle or at home. Please do not bring or wear excessive metal objects such as pocket knives, key chains, belts, jewelry, etc., as you will be passing through metal detectors at the security check-in. Although there is no prescribed dress code, jurors are asked to dress appropriately for their appearance in court.
Overnight Stays: Jury selection will take place the day you are asked to report. You are advised that jury service often results in an overnight stay for those jurors who travel. If you are selected to serve as a juror and live more than 50 miles one way from the courthouse, you may choose to stay overnight at the government's expense until your jury service is complete (this includes your night before your date to report). If you live within 50 miles of the courthouse, but due to weather conditions or other circumstances wish to remain overnight, the Clerk may grant that request. If there is a possibility that you will choose to stay overnight during your service, you should come prepared with the essentials (clothing, medications, toiletries, etc.) On average, trials last between two and five days.
Attendance: $40 per day for attendance, including travel days. The attendance fee is taxable income; you should keep a record of this. Mileage and subsistence, however, are not taxable.
Travel: Mileage reimbursed at the prevailing rate. **Reimbursement for travel by any other means than private vehicle must be pre-approved.**
Hotel/Motel: Reimbursed at prevailing rate for those who live 50 miles away or further. You must provide your original hotel receipt for overnight lodging.
Timing: Please allow 4-6 weeks before you receive payment.
In the event you are called to serve during a lapse in appropriation
(i.e., a government shutdown), payment of juror fees and reimbursement of expenses may be delayed.
Below are links for courthouse locations, recorded message phone numbers, and email addresses for each court location. Click on the city link for detailed courthouse directions, parking information, and phone numbers if you need to speak with someone in person.
Below is a map of Montana showing the divisional boundaries for jurors:
** Failure to follow the instructions set forth in your Summons may result in the court ordering the U.S. Marshal to personally serve you with an Order to Appear, at your own expense, before the Court to show cause why you should not be held in contempt of Court for your failure to comply with the summons. Failure to obey the directives of the Court may also result in fine, imprisonment, or both, as dictated by law.**