Dear Straight Dope: Are famous people exempt from jury duty? Think about it: who ever has served? What professional-sport player was listed not on IR (injured reserve), but JD? I know of no music concert tour ever to have its dates changed for such a thing. Johnny Carson was on TV for 30 years without time off except for summers and Christmas, like everyone on TV. Certainly in the last ten years, if any celeb had been near a jury box, Hard Copy or A Current Affair would have told us. Yes, I realize the prosecutor or the defense might not want a celebrity to influence the trial, but the person would still have to show up for a day or two until they decide not to use him/her. I know that certain jobs are exempt, like doctors and lawyers, but how do you look at “Kurt Russell, actor” and know it’s THAT one? Which of course begs the question: how famous do you have to be? When Madonna was flipping burgers for a living, let’s assume that wouldn’t be famous enough for that KILLER exemption. Maybe when “Holiday” came out? Perhaps, if by some miracle you print this extremely long question (which begs to be edited, yes, I just didn’t want you to think I hadn’t thought it out), the clamoring masses could tell of a famous person who they know has served jury duty. I’m just a little terrified of a world where air traffic controllers sit sequestered while Siegfried & Roy walk free. Daniel in Oakland
SDStaff CKDextHavn replies:
The answer is gonna be a lot shorter than the question. As far as the federal court system goes, at least, celebrities are subject to jury draft, same as everyone else. I learn this from a U.S. district attorney. And well known folks do serve on occasion. Recently NPR’s Ray Suarez had to take a week off for jury duty, although I suppose you could argue he doesn’t count as a celebrity.
In practice, of course, celebrities often successfully argue their way out of actually serving. Jillgat commented that “Woody Allen got called for JD recently. He gave the judge some big rant about how ‘justice isn’t served in courtrooms’ and that he ‘doesn’t believe in lawyers.’ ” Such statements would tend to get one dismissed from actually serving on a jury.
Similarly, the judge or either side’s attorney could presumably dismiss the celebrity, if they felt he/she might unduly influence the other jurors. … or if the celebrity’s presence might disrupt the proceedings.
SDStaff CKDextHavn, Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
Send questions to Cecil via email@example.com.
STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.