Q: I’ve been summoned to jury duty, but I’m scared about contracting COVID-19, what can I do?
A: Iowa law allows a juror to request that he or she be excused from jury service under certain limited circumstances. A judge may determine whether or not a juror should be excused from service-based “upon a finding of hardship, inconvenience or public necessity.” This would include the determination jury service would threaten the economic, physical, or emotional wellbeing of the person called for jury service or someone who is dependent upon that person.
Typically, it would require a finding of extreme hardship, so underlying comorbidities or conditions which make COVID-19 particularly problematic should be explained in a request for an excuse. Providing medical certification would also be a good idea.
A juror may be automatically excused from service if they verify in writing that they are solely responsible for the daily care of a person with a permanent disability who is living in the person’s household and service would cause “substantial risk of injury to the health of the person with a disability.”
A person who is breastfeeding a child and is responsible for the daily care of the child may also be excused. However, it should be noted that there is an exception to both of these automatic excuses, “if the person is regularly employed at a location other than the person’s household, the person shall not be excused under this section.”
If you have an essential function job, such as an ICU nurse, you could also provide an affidavit under the public necessity exception. Your employer can provide an affidavit attesting to the nature of your job and why you are an essential employee. During COVID-19 healthcare employees are likely to fall into this category.
If you make a false statement to the court in an attempt to get out of jury service, it is considered to be contempt of court.
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