View Full Version : Can a non-english speaker get called for jury duty?

11-04-2008, 12:09 PM
Thinking about voter registration, it occurred to me that there are many things you can do without having to speak english. I am pretty sure you can get a driver's license, social security card, etc etc by having materials in your own language (obviously spanish is the language where there are most likely alternative-language paperwork).

But what about being called in for Jury Duty? and if so, would the Juror in this case have an interpreter present? I'm guessing that given the circumstances/hassle, they wouldn't have to actually serve Jury duty, but ironically I kind of see this as somewhat of an unfair advantage to weasel out of it (like if they were bilingual and passed off as not knowing any english so they wouldn't have to go).

Doug Bowe
11-04-2008, 12:55 PM
I know someone who is a translator at our county courthouse. It's a full time job.

11-04-2008, 01:04 PM
They have to be citizens to serve, and any lawyer on either side worth their oxygen would get rid of a non-English speaker with their preremptory (spelling?) challenge.

Odds are, if they are called for duty, actually serving is a very long shot.

Someone faking inability to speak English when otherwise qualified risks a contempt citation for trying to dodge jury duty.

11-04-2008, 01:05 PM
When I had jury duty two years ago, there was someone selected who did not speak English. He was one of the first to be dismissed by the lawyers though and didn't make it to the actual trial.

11-04-2008, 01:07 PM
FWIW, last time I got a jury card thingy in the mail in New York, one of the qualifying questions was "can you communicate in the English language?"

I don't know if answering "no" would have disqualified me or not.

11-04-2008, 01:21 PM
I was called for Jury Duty this week (I didn't get selected). Once they called everyone up, one of the questions that they asked was "Are you able to communicate in the English language?" We do have a lot of hispanic citizens around here, but the vast majority of them don't have any problem speaking English.

Hari Seldon
11-04-2008, 01:48 PM
Language is a headache here in Quebec. In a criminal case, the defendant has the right to a trial in English or French and the jury (not to mention judge and prosecutor) have to be chosen accordingly. But then there are often witnesses who cannot speak the language (especially when it is a trial in English) and interpreters are needed. Of course, many of the jurors will be fluently bilingual and will ignore the interpreter. The possibilities are magnified in a civil trial if the plaintiff and defendant don't agree on the language.

11-04-2008, 02:12 PM
Under Texas Government Code Sec. 62.102, a person must be able to read and write the English language to serve as a juror. However, under Texas Government Code Sec. 62.103, the court may suspend that qualification if they can't find enough people in the county able to read and write to make a jury. :D

11-04-2008, 02:17 PM
CT has the jury response form online, and you can see all the exclusions:

# I am a college student.
# I do not work outside the home and I do not have childcare.
# I am no longer a Connecticut resident.
# I am not a citizen of the United States.
# I cannot speak or understand English. Yo no hablo ni entiendo inglÚs.
# I am 70 years old and choose not to serve.
# I have a physical or psychiatric disability that prevents me from serving.
# I am under 18 years of age.
# I am in the military serving active duty.
# I do not have transportation.
# I do not work outside of my home and I provide full-time care for my spouse or another relative living with me.

Eva Luna
11-04-2008, 02:25 PM
The level of English required to become a U.S. citizen is rather basic, and definitely not enough to fully comprehend trial testimony. A former co-worker of mine whose English was good enough to pass the language exam for naturalization, but far from fluent, was called for jury duty - he went, and was dismissed, though I don't know whether it was by court personnel or by one of the lawyers.

11-04-2008, 02:30 PM
preremptory (spelling?)


11-04-2008, 03:13 PM
I served on a California jury a few months ago and six or seven prospective jurors were excused for not fully understanding English.

Everybody knew almost all of them were faking to get off the jury, though.

11-04-2008, 03:16 PM
When I was summoned a few years ago one of the women in our pool had obviously poor English. The judge asked her a few questions and then very politely said "The court will excuse you, thank you for your time." Neither set of attorneys had to use a challenge.

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