Duty calls back

Dear Ace: A few months ago, I was called for jury duty. I didn’t want to go, but took the suggested amount of time off work anyway. When I showed up, it was cancelled! I was thrilled, but a few weeks later a notice showed up in the mail asking me to serve again. What gives?—B.I. Gavel

B.I.: Ace hears your cries. A few years back, Ace, too, was called to appear before the strong arm of the law (as a juror, of course), but when he called the jury hotline, he found he didn’t have to go. Nearly an entire month later (a month of rest and relaxation, mind you—Ace thought, why spoil the time off by going back to work?), he received a delightful notice in the mail beckoning him back. He, too, wondered what—besides the federal government and their doling of duties—gives. (Note: Ace realizes he basically just rehashed your own problem, B., but he feels that when he includes a personal anecdote, it helps him better relate to his readers.)

Being the dutiful investigative reporter he is, Ace called the Charlottesville division of the U.S. District Court. Irresponsive to media, they directed Ace to Linda Eanes, the jury administrator in Roanoke. Linda said that (in federal court) for a petit jury (a.k.a. trial jury), a person called for duty is on call for six months, regardless of whether or not they served their time (so to speak). Right now, they have 600 to 700 people in rotation.

As for your (well, our) specific situation, Linda said if you’re called for duty and subsequently sent home, your name just goes right back into the rotation. A good way to find out if you’re needed at a specific trial is to call the jury hotline, which will tell you where and when to show up (or not, as the case—pun alert!—may be).

Of course, when Ace first called the U.S. District Court office in Charlottesville, he did notice that the message on the hotline was left for jurors serving a trial on March 10, 2005, indicating to Ace that that might not be an ideal source of information. But just do what jurors aren’t supposed to do: Go with your gut.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 18 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to ace@c-ville.com.

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