Welcome to my new website and blog.  I hope you will find the content helpful and entertaining and that you will visit here often.  I plan to post responses to frequently asked questions from my law practice as well as comment on legal news.  First, a little background information.

I have practiced law in the Roanoke Valley for 23 years, first in Roanoke and then in my hometown of Salem.  Two years with a large firm in Roanoke handling corporate and real estate matters, including foreclosures was followed by another four years with a smaller firm handling many different types of cases, including criminal defense and divorce.  I opened my practice in Salem and after two moves, I have been at my present location at 416 South College Avenue in Salem since 1998.  Now, let’s get started.

Question one:

I just received a summons for jury duty.  Is there any way I can get out of it?

Jury duty is one of the highest forms of public service second only to military service and holding of public office.  It can also be a great learning experience and one that many people enjoy.  With that said, perhaps you have served before and have had your fill or the timing is just not right.  Not everyone who is summonsed must serve.  Perhaps your situation fits one of the exemptions or you have a valid excuse for avoiding service.  What should you do?

Do not ignore your summons.  Doing so may result in a harsh reprimand from a judge or worse, a finding that you are in contempt of court.  You may want to call your lawyer to see if you have a legitimate excuse for avoiding jury service.  The Code of Virginia identifies those who are automatically exempted for jury duty and those who may be exempted upon request.  For example, if you are over 70 years of age or if you are the only person performing services for a business which would be forced to shut down if you are forced to serve or if you are a mother breast feeding her child, you may request to be exempted.  Further, the Court on its own may exempt a person or limit a person’s service to certain dates.  Check out Virginia Code Sections 8.01-341, 341.1 and 341.2 to see if any of these may apply to you. 

Even if you do not give a valid excuse, you may not end up serving on a jury.  Lawyers choose a jury by excluding a certain number of members of the jury panel.  So even if you appear for jury duty, it does not necessarily mean that you will actually be chosen to serve.  Lawyers choose to excuse jurors they think may not be sympathetic to whomever they are representing.  A lawyer representing an injured person in a suit for personal injuries may choose to exclude an insurance adjuster for example.

If you do not fit an exemption or have a valid excuse and you are not excluded by one of the lawyers or by the Judge for bias, it is time to suck it up and perform your civic duty.