Attending court can be a daunting experience for some people. For most, jury service may be the only time they have ever been to a court building.
What you need to do
- Confirm your requirement to attend the business day prior to your summons date
- Allow plenty of time to get to court and checked in for jury service
- Bring your jury summons and photo ID
Here's what you can expect when you attend for your jury service.
If summoned to the Melbourne County Court, we strongly recommend you take public transport. The court building is located very close to Flagstaff station and several tram stops, making this the most convenient option.
If summoned to a regional court, it's best to check what parking is available prior to your summons date. You can do so here.
It's best to avoid parking in a timed or metered spot, as you will not be allowed to exit the court building to move your car or top up a parking meter once you have been checked in.
All courts required you to pass through an airport-style security checkpoint. Any items considered dangerous will be confiscated and returned at the end of the day. This includes, but is not limited to, knives, knitting needles, scissors, glass food containers, and cutlery.
Please note, illegal items will not be returned, and will instead be surrendered to police.
You will be checked in for jury service shortly after arrival. Once you have been checked in, you form part of the jury pool. After check in, an orientation will be conducted, providing more details on how the day will proceed.
During the day
Before each trial begins, a ballot is held to randomly choose people to go to the courtroom. This group of people are called the jury panel, from which the jury is selected.
If you are chosen for a jury panel, you will need to take your bag, coat, or other possessions with you to the courtroom.
You will also be required to follow court etiquette:
- Your phone, tablet, or laptop must be turned completely off, not just on silent
- You must not chew gum or eat food while in court or on the way to court
- Any drinks you have should be placed in your bag or disposed of
- Hats and sunglasses should not be worn in court
In the courtroom
The judge will provide a summary of the trial, including:
- Estimated length of the trial
- Name of the accused
- Nature of the charges or dispute
- Names of any witnesses to be called
- Names of all others involved in the trial (judge, judge's staff, lawyers, etc)
The judge will then invite members of the jury panel to apply to be excused from serving as a juror on that particular trial. Valid reasons to be excused from a particular trial are:
- Knowing somebody in the courtroom or involved in the trial, such as the accused, lawyers, witnesses, judge, or judge's staff
- Knowing something about the trial itself
- The nature of the trial may be likely to cause you significant discomfort
The judge and their staff oversee the jury empanelment process. Individuals are randomly chosen from the jury panel until 12-15 jurors are selected in a criminal trial, or 6-8 jurors in a civil trial. The exact process of empanelment differs slightly for criminal and civil trials.
The prosecution and defence have the right to challenge or stand aside jurors without cause, which excludes them from the jury. There is no need to feel embarrassed or offended if you are challenged.
If you take a seat in the jury box without being challenged, you have been selected as a juror on that trial. Once all jurors are selected, you will be asked to take a religious oath or civil affirmation that you will carry out your task faithfully. Both an oath and affirmation are equally binding, and must be taken seriously. The trial will begin immediately.
If you are not selected as a juror, you will return to the jury pool room with the remainder of the jury panel. You will then be available to be balloted to another trial if required.
End of day
Your day ends when there are no more trials ready to begin. The Jury Pool Supervisor will let you know when this is the case.
If you have not been selected as a juror on a trial by this stage, in most instances your jury service will be complete. Occasionally, you may be required to return the following day, in which case the Jury Pool Supervisor will let you know.
You can download a Certificate of Attendance for your employer through the online Juror Portal. You will also receive a remittance statement via email when your payment is processed.
What to bring
You will need to bring your summons and photo ID.
You may also want to bring a book, laptop, tablet, etc to occupy your time between ballots. However, keep in mind you will need to go through a security check to enter the court, and items such as knitting needles will not be allowed through.
Some courts have televisions, magazines, workstations, and wifi available in the jury pool area. You can find out more on the amenities of your court here.
Lunch and smoke breaks
Once checked in, you will not be able to leave the jury pool area unless otherwise directed by the Jury Pool Supervisor.
Your lunch break will typically be about an hour long, however the Jury Pool Supervisor will advise you what time you will be required back when releasing the pool for lunch. Please note, Juries Victoria does not provide lunch, so you will need to either bring your lunch with you, or buy lunch during your break.
Depending on the needs of the court, there may be time for a smoke break during the day for those who wish it. The Jury Pool Supervisor will advise you of this on the day, and will accompany smokers to the smoking area.
Will I be able to go home each night?
Jurors serving on a trial go home at night.
The only exception is when a judge decides the jury must be kept together during the deliberation process -that is, while reaching a verdict. This is known as sequestering, and occurs very rarely. However, if required, you will be given plenty of notice.
Ballot: The process by which members of the jury pool are randomly chosen to form the jury panel.
Jury panel: The small group of people randomly chosen from the jury pool to go to a courtroom. The jury is selected from the jury panel.
Jury pool: The collective name for everybody attending for jury service on a given day.