Someone I know is not mentally handicapped but has hard time understanding things and often needs to have private tutoring to grasp a concept. This person is potentially being selected for jury duty. He's terrified he'll have no idea what he is doing or what is happening. I suspect if he is selected someone will have to guide him how to vote or he'll freeze up.

He used to have selective mutism which might have been officially diagnosed as a child, but I am not sure. Without getting an official diagnosis for a mental disorder, does he have any options to get out of jury duty?


2 Answers 2


It Depends on the state and court

How much mental capacity is required depends on the jurisdiction. In every state, there's a law that describes who has to serve jury duty, and who is exempt, and if a style of dress is prescribed. In the following, I will grab a couple of random states to illustrate, using https://www.juryduty101.com/ as the main source, because they give a good overview for all 50 states but are not fully reliable for all details. Look up your proper state statute using the reference links from the site.

Do also note that courthouses might have additional requirements that might be higher or more specific, especially in the dress code (some might require to wear face masks, others don't) or current health status (like testing negative for COVID). It's required to read the call for jury duty for those. As a random example: the Eastern District of New York tells its expectations (almost mimicked by most other courts):

Proper court attire is mandatory. No jeans, shorts, tank tops, sweats or other very casual attire is permitted. Dress "business casual" or "business" for your appearance.

In , there's a rather simple list of who's exempt from Jury Duty in the first place. The page is listing, among others, disability as an excuse from Jury Duty, and you need to qualify in the first place. The Qualifications demanded from a juror, among others, are this:

  • have the ability to read, speak, and understand English
  • be of sound mind to the capability of "rendering satisfactory juror service, being able to perform a sedentary job requiring close attention for three consecutive business days for six hours per day, with short breaks in the morning and afternoon sessions."

The bolded portion is why people with ADHD might get an excuse in Connecticut, while the sound of mind part allows someone with a mental disability to claim disqualification.

In , the qualifications demand the prospective juror to consider themselves of sound mind and good moral character - which appears as a self-estimation. The actual legislation for disqualification for sound mind and good moral can be found here, and doesn't make it a self-estimation but makes it appear a thing of fact, without elaborating how that is determined.

, boldly demands a juror must not be mentally or physically ill or infirmed. or... actually that is too broad of a characterization, as it omits some crucial words:

MO Rev Stat § 494.425 Persons ineligible for jury service.

494.425. The following persons shall be disqualified from serving as a petit or grand juror: [...]

(8) Any person who, in the judgment of the court, is incapable of performing the duties of a juror because of mental or physical illness or infirmity. The juror or the juror's personal representative, may provide the court with documentation from a physician licensed to practice medicine verifying that a mental or physical condition renders the person unfit for jury service for a period of up to twenty-four months.

  • What would be the point of disqualifying for non-contagious physical illnesses that would not affect the person's ability to serve on a jury? (re: the Missouri law)
    – Someone
    Dec 23, 2022 at 20:57
  • 3
    @Someone The law actually is more specific than the characterization on Juryduty101.In this case, it acts as a catch-all for serious impairments and is also too much of a generalization of the actual laws in Mo Rev. Stat. §494 - indeed the site did mischaracterize it insofar that it lacks the crucial in the judgment of the court. If the judge is faced with a broken pinky... he may decide to send the person home (possibly to heal it out properly) or to keep them there, depending on the mood of the judge.
    – Trish
    Dec 23, 2022 at 23:06

A juror can be disqualified from (or excused) jury service if they lack mental capacity under the Mental Capacity Act (2005).

SCHEDULE 1 - Persons Disqualified for Jury Service;

Persons subject to Mental Health Act 1983 or Mental Capacity Act 2005
A person who lacks capacity, within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to serve as a juror

Juries Act (1974)

In this instance, there's a simple test provided in the Mental Capacity Act - Code of Practice for the assessment of capacity;

Does the person have an impairment of the mind or brain, or is there some sort of disturbance affecting the way their mind or brain works? (It doesn’t matter whether the impairment or disturbance is temporary or permanent.)

If so, does that impairment or disturbance mean that the person is unable to make the decision in question at the time it needs to be made?

Your friend should respond to the jury summons with an outline of why they don't feel capable of performing jury duty based on the two criteria above, information about anyone that assisted them in writing their response, the fears that they have previously expressed (e.g. that he is "terrified he'll have no idea what he is doing or what is happening") as well as the anxiety that is being caused by their selection and any adverse health consequences arising.

It's likely that the Jury Central Summoning Bureau will simply reply to say that this person is excused.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .