Legal Advice: Civilian jury duty as a military member

  • Published
  • Fairchild AFB Legal Office

The U.S. Congress enacted a federal statute that states a member of the armed forces can’t be required to serve on a state or local jury if the secretary of the service involved determines that jury service would unreasonably interfere with the performance of the member’s duties or would adversely affect the readiness of the unit, command or activity to which the member is assigned.


Air Force Instruction 51-301, Civil Litigation, paragraph 9.26. provides that all flag or general officers, squadron commanders and above, operating forces engaged in warfare, personnel in a training status, and personnel stationed outside the U.S. are automatically exempt from serving on a state or local jury under federal law.


Other Air Force members are exempt if their installation commander determines that one of the criteria highlighted above apply. Upon receiving a state or local jury duty summons, the military member should immediately inform their chain of command and their unit commander will need to determine whether the member’s absence for jury duty meets one of the two mission-related exceptions, or one of the automatic exemptions.


If their unit commander decides that exemption is inappropriate, then the member must serve jury duty. However, if one of the mission-related exemptions does apply, the unit commander will inform the Special Court-Martial Convening Authority (at Fairchild AFB, this is the 92nd Air Refueling Wing commander), who can approve the exemption in writing to the local or state court. The specific language to include in the commander’s exemption letter for jury service is stated in AFI 51-301, paragraph 9.27.4.


If members do serve on a jury, they qualify for permissive temporary duty assignment and shouldn’t be charged leave or lose pay. All fees and stipends earned by the member from their jury service must be turned over to the U.S. Treasury. However, members may receive reimbursement from the state or local jury authority for expenses incurred in performing jury duty, such as transportation costs or parking fees.


If members are called for federal juries, federal law excludes all active-duty service members from serving on federal juries. 28 U.S.C. §1863(b)(6). Members who receive a federal jury summons can notify the court of their active-duty status and be relieved of their jury service without command involvement.


For more information, contact the Fairchild Air Force Base Legal Office at (509) 247-2838.