Welcome to jury service for the United States District Court, Southern District of Iowa. Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice, and jury service is one of the most important duties of citizenship. You do not need any prior knowledge of the legal system to be a juror. The protection of rights and liberties of parties in federal courts is largely achieved through the teamwork of judge and jury.
There are two types of federal jury service: petit jury service (also known as trial jury) and grand jury service. It is possible that your name could be drawn for either of these services.
Petit Jurors are summoned for a one month term on civil and criminal jury trials held in the U.S. District Court. A civil jury consists of six to twelve members. Criminal trials require twelve jurors with at least one alternate.
Grand Jurors are summoned for one to three days each month during a 12 month term of service. The sessions are held in secrecy to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to issue an indictment, i.e., charge a person with a crime. This is the initial stage of a criminal case.
What to expect during a typical petit juror day:
After you arrive at the courthouse and check in with the jury department, you are sent to a courtroom. Once all jurors have reported, the selection process begins. There is a brief orientation to provide you with an overview of what to expect. During the selection process, which usually lasts about three hours, you hear a little about the subject matter and expected length of the trial, and are asked questions by the Judge and attorneys. Once the jury is chosen, the trial typically begins right away, with the judge giving specific instructions about how to proceed for the rest of the trial. Those not chosen are dismissed for the day.
What to expect when you report for grand jury:
After checking in with the jury department you are sent to a courtroom. The Judge and an Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) conduct the selection process by asking a series of questions. At the conclusion of the questioning they select 23 jurors and up to six alternates. The Judge appoints a foreperson and up to two deputies. Next, the jury department provides a brief orientation and answers questions pertaining to payments, parking, etc.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney discusses what to expect over the course of your term, and provides a list of all your reporting dates. Grand juries typically serve a one year term, and report 2-3 days a month. All information regarding the grand jury, including reporting dates, is strictly confidential. The secrecy of proceedings is discussed during orientation.