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How Jury Duty Can Impact a Woman’s Health

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How Jury Duty Can Impact a Woman’s Health

Aug 15, 2019

It may not seem like it, but being called away to jury duty can have a big impact on the Seven Domains of Women’s Health—especially if you’re a working mother. Dr. Kirtly Parker Jones explains the history of women serving on juries, how it can impact your health, and how to appeal your summons if you just can’t get away.

Episode Transcript

You are an ICU nurse, Intensive Care Unit, working all the time, working nights. Your husband has a great job as a heavy equipment operator working days. You have three kids, and the two of you are just juggling to get all the bases covered and then you're called for jury duty.

Seven domains -- physical, emotional, social, intellectual, financial, environmental, and spiritual. So what does jury duty have to do with the seven domains? Well, it involves the social, it could the financial, maybe emotional, and possibly spiritual domains. So let's just get to it.

Women were often thought back in the 1800s and into the 2000s that their lack of intelligence, emotional stability, and need to tend to a home life would have them inadequate for the job of being a juror. When women got the right to vote and that was in the early 2000s, it was assumed that they would be allowed to serve on jury duties.

Well, that's sort of worked out. In fact, along with the right to vote, the West, states in the West led with having women on jury duty with Wyoming Territory first. Women were the first to be given the right to vote in Wyoming in 1869 and the right to jury duty in 1870. Then came Utah -- yay Utah -- in 1898. But they could use the excuse that they were women, and most women actually in Utah didn't serve on juries until about the 1930s. Washington State, Kansas, Oregon, and California followed right on those heels, and women were first allowed to be on juries in the West. Mississippi was last with women being allowed by statute to be on juries in 1968.

So women were allowed to be in juries, but they had to opt in originally. They had to actively put their names on a list to allow them to be called. It wasn't assumed that all women who were registered to vote or who had a license to drive a car would be actually called to jury duty. They had to actively opt in. And then that was declared unconstitutional, and then many states had opt out, meaning, women would be called, but they could say just because they were women, they could opt out of serving. And in 1979, a case before the Supreme Court, argued by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, stated that juries must be made to reflect the general population and the opt-out rule was unconstitutional.

Okay. So 34 years ago, I was called for jury duty. I was too busy. Number one, I was a busy doctor working 70 hours a week. Number two, my husband was a resident, and he couldn't pick up the pieces. Number three, I was a breastfeeding mother of a new baby. The judge said no to all of these. I showed up. It actually sort of felt like a vacation except for the breast pumping part. Today in Utah, there's only one statutory exemption for jury duty, and that is breastfeeding. An exemption written into the law and was passed in 2015 that breastfeeding mothers could be excused from jury duty, and it's the only exemption in the law.

There's no age exemption the way there is in some other states. People over 70 in some states are not called for jury duty. There are no legal exemptions. However, you can appeal in writing with the claim of extreme hardship due to physical, emotional, or financial reasons. But it's not likely to be granted. They may postpone your service for a month or so if you request it in writing and explain the conflict.

A jury should represent the population at large, and it's everyone's job unless they are unfit. It's a way we provide service to our communities is to serve on juries. We need women like The Seven Domain listeners on our juries as thoughtful people. But if you're breastfeeding and you have a newborn baby and you're in Utah, you can be excused. And thanks for joining us on The Scope.