Jury Service in the Federal Court - FAQs

Note: The information in this document relates to jury service in the Federal Court of Australia. Different procedures may apply if a person is summonsed for jury service before a State or Territory Court. If a person wants information in relation to jury service before a State or Territory court, they should contact that court.

 

Eligibility for jury service

Am I eligible for jury service in the Federal Court?

A person who is eligible to vote in a federal election is also eligible to serve on a jury in the Federal Court, unless they are excluded by reason of their background or employment.

Section 23DI of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976 sets out when a person is not eligible for jury service by reason of their background. Section 23DJ sets out when a person is not eligible by reason of their employment. The Jury Exemption Act 1965, the Jury Exemption Regulations 1987 and section 89 of the Navigation Act 2012 set out some additional categories of people who are not eligible for jury service.

A full list of the exemptions can be found in Information sheet 1 – Eligibility for jury service and disqualification from jury service.

If you think you may not be eligible for jury service, you should read the above information sheet and see if any of the categories apply to you.


What do I do if I am not eligible for jury service?

If you are not eligible for jury service, you should let the Federal Court know when you receive a jury questionnaire or when you receive a jury summons. You will also be given a chance to ask to be excused if you attend court in answer to a jury summons.


Being excused from jury service

Who can I ask to be excused from jury service?

You can ask to be excused from jury service on any grounds which make it impossible or difficult to perform jury service.

The relevant factors may include:

  • health issues
  • undue hardship to you or another person
  • recent jury service on another jury
  • substantial inconvenience to the public, and
  • inability for any reason, to perform the duties of a juror to a reasonable standard.

You can also ask to be excused if you think you may not be able to bring an open mind to the matter because, for example, you know the accused person or a witness, or have an interest in the outcome of the trial.

However, you should think carefully before asking to be excused. The criminal justice system cannot work without jurors, and it is often possible for people to arrange their affairs so that they can perform jury service.

Also see: Jurors with a disability and/or from non-English speaking backgrounds


How do I ask to be excused from jury service?

A potential juror will be given at least three chances to ask to be excused from jury service.

You can ask to be excused:

  • when you receive a jury questionnaire
  • when you receive a jury summons, or
  • when you attend court in response to a summons.

Jury questionnaires

What should I do if I receive a jury questionnaire?

If you receive a jury questionnaire, you should complete it and return it to the Federal Court by the date specified in the covering letter.

A completed questionnaire can be returned by post, by using the pre-paid return envelope provided with the questionnaire, or by lodging it electronically using the directions given in the covering letter.

It is an offence for a person to fail to complete and return a jury questionnaire or to provide false or misleading information in response to a questionnaire. The relevant offence provision is section 58AE of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.

Note that a jury questionnaire is not a summons. You should not attend court unless and until you receive a summons that directs you to do so. Not everyone who receives a jury questionnaire will be summonsed for jury service.


Jury summonses

What should I do if I receive a jury summons?

If you receive a jury summons, you must attend court on the day shown in the summons unless either:

  • you are notified before that day that you have been excused from jury service, or
  • you are contacted by the Court and told that you will not be needed at court on that day.

If you are told that you will not be needed at court on the day specified in the summons, but that you will be needed on another day, you must attend court on that other day.

The summons will show a contact number for the Court. Please call that number if you have any questions or if you are not sure when you are required to attend court.

It is an offence for a person to fail to comply with a jury summons. The relevant offence provision is section 58AA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.


Where should I go if I receive a jury summons?

The Federal Court has premises in every Australian Capital city. The jury summons will tell you where you should go and what time you should arrive.

When you arrive at court, you should see a sign telling you where to go in the court building. There will also be one or more court officers in attendance. If you have any questions you should talk to one of the attendants.


How long will I be needed for jury service?

A jury summons will show when the trial is due to begin and how long it is likely to last. When you attend court, you will be told if the estimated length of the trial has changed. If it has, you should consider whether you are still able to perform jury service for that trial.


What if I can only perform jury service for a limited time?

A jury summons issued by the Federal Court will be issued in relation to a specific trial. The summons and accompanying material will show when the relevant trial is due to start and how long the trial is likely to run.

If you will not be able to perform jury service for the full length of the trial, you should inform the Sheriff accordingly when you respond to a questionnaire or when you receive a summons. The Sheriff will decide whether you should be excused from jury service for the pending trial.


General information for jurors

What hours does the Federal Court sit?

The Federal Court normally sits between 10.15am and 4.15pm each weekday, with a one hour break for lunch. People who have been summonsed for jury service should arrive at court by 9.00am on the first day of the trial to allow time to form a jury panel – unless a different time is specified in the summons.


What should I wear to court?

A juror or potential juror should wear neat comfortable clothes to court.


What should I bring to court?

If you have been summonsed for jury service, you should bring the summons and some form of identification (e.g. a driver's licence). You should also consider bringing reading material or something similar in case you need to spend time waiting at court.


What happens if I don't attend court?

It is an offence for a person to fail to attend court when summonsed to do so. A person who does not attend court may face enforcement action. The relevant offence provision is section 58AA of the Federal Court of Australia Act 1976.


Will I be able to leave the court building at lunchtime?

As a general rule, Federal Court jurors can leave the court building at lunchtime, unless the jury has retired to consider its verdict.

However, there may be some situations where the trial judge will want the jurors to stay in the court building, even if the jury has not retired to consider its verdict. If so, the judge will give direction to the jurors directing that they stay in the court building.

The jurors must comply with any direction of that kind that is given by the trial judge.

If the jury has retired to consider its verdict, the rule is that they must not leave the court building at any time unless the trial judge gives permission for them to do so.


Can I go home at night?

The members of a Federal Court jury can go home at night unless the trial judge requires that the jurors remain together. The Federal Court will arrange accommodation and meals if that becomes necessary.


Can I smoke at court?

All premises used or occupied by the Federal Court are smoke free. However, arrangements can be made to allow cigarette breaks for jurors who smoke.


Can I take a mobile phone into the jury room?

It will be matter for the trial judge to decide whether the jurors can take mobile phones, laptops, IPads and other communication devices into the jury room. The judge will normally give a direction on the issue at the start of the trial.

However, a juror must never use a mobile phone or other communication device to discuss details of the trial with anyone who is outside the jury room or to conduct their own research into issues raised by the trial.

The jury must reach a decision based on the evidence presented in court and the directions given by the trial judge.


Fees and payments to jurors

What fees are payable to jurors and potential jurors?

The rates of attendance fees and jury fees are set out in the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulations 2012.

Information sheet 2 – Attendance fees and travel allowance.


How will attendance fees and jury fees be paid?

Every person who attends court in response to a jury summons will be asked to provide bank account details so that applicable fees can be paid by Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).

It is possible for the Court to make alternative payment arrangements if a person does not have a bank account. However, there may be delays in payment if it is not possible to use EFT.


Do jury fees have to be declared to ATO?

According to the ATO website, jury fees paid to a person may form part of their assessable income and may need to be declared to the Australian Taxation Office.

The Federal Court will provide a payment summary to each juror at the end of the financial year showing payments made. If you require further information, you should talk to the ATO or your financial advisor, if you have one.


Will I get travel allowance?

A juror or potential juror may be entitled to claim travel allowance if they need to travel more than 30km to reach court.

The rate of fees and allowances change from time to time. The current rates are set out in Information sheet 2 – Attendance fees and travel allowance.

If you want to claim travel allowance, you should ask for a travel claim form when you are at court.


Will I get meals?

The Federal Court will provide lunch to a jury on each day the jury is required at court. The Court will provide other meals if the jurors are not able to leave court at the normal meal time.


Jury service and your employer

Will my employer pay my normal wages while I perform jury service?

Under the Fair Work Act 2009, an employer must pay an employee, for up to 10 days, for the difference between their jury allowance and their ordinary base rate of payment.

Beyond that it is matter for the individual employer to decide whether to pay normal wages to a juror in the Federal Court. If you do not know where your employer stands on the issue, you should speak to your employer or your personnel section.


Will I have to repay any money to my employer?

It is a matter for a juror and their employer to work out whether any money the juror receives by way of jury allowance must be paid to the employer. If you have any questions on the issue, you should speak to your employer or to your personnel section.


What if my employer won't give me leave for jury service?

Under the Fair Work Act 2009 an employer must grant leave to an employee who is required to perform jury service and the employer cannot deduct the time from recreation leave or any other leave due to the employee. If an employer refuses to grant leave for jury service, you should contact the Federal Court.


Expectations of jurors

Are jurors required to be experts on the law?

Jurors are not required to be experts on the law or to have any other area of special knowledge.

Jurors are selected at random and are expected to bring with them the range of knowledge and skills they have as members of the general community.

The trial judge will assist the jury by giving directions on the law. A jury must comply with directions given by the trial judge.


What if the jury has a question on the law?

The jury can put questions to the trial judge in the course of a trial.

That should be done by the foreperson putting the question into writing and passing the note to a jury officer. The jury officer will pass the question to the judge.

An individual juror can also pass a note directly to a jury officer if an issue arises which the juror does not want to discuss with the foreperson.


Who can I talk to about jury service?

A juror is allowed to tell their friends, family and workmates that they have been selected on a jury. However, they must not discuss details of the case with anyone except their fellow jurors and must not identify other members of the jury to any person.

This applies even when the trial is over. The jury deliberations must remain secret.

There are some limited exceptions to the secrecy rule. The main one is that a former juror can disclose information to a health professional if they are receiving treatment in relation to issues arising out of the former juror's service on a jury.

If a former juror is not sure whether that exception applies to them, they should contact the Federal Court.


Can I volunteer to do jury service?

No. Jurors for the Federal Court are selected by a random process from the general community. A person cannot volunteer to sit on a jury.


What happens if a jury makes its own inquiries?

It is very important that a jury does not conduct its own research or make its own inquiries. The jury must reach a decision based on the evidence presented in court and the directions given by the trial judge.

The jurors should not, for example, discuss the case with family members or friends and should not use the Internet to conduct research.

If a jury makes its own inquiries, it may be necessary for the judge to dismiss the jury and start the trial again with a new jury.


Jurors with a disability and/or from non-English speaking backgrounds

What if I can't understand English?

A person who cannot speak or read English can ask to be excused from jury service on that basis.


What if I have a disability?

If you have a disability, you should notify the Court when you receive a jury questionnaire. The Court will consider whether it can accommodate your needs so you can perform jury service despite your disability.


More information

Who do I contact for further information?

If you still have questions after reading the Jury Service pages, you can contact the Sheriff of the Federal Court by email at sheriff@fedcourt.gov.au or by phone at (02) 9230 8567 (ask to speak to a jury officer).