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Potential jurors asking to postpone due to money

Amber Carter has heard every excuse in the book.

Most of the time, the Goodhue County senior court clerk is firm: You must have a pretty good reason to get out of jury duty.

The slumping economy, it seems, has provided as good a reason as ever.

Carter - along with judges and legal experts nationwide - say climbing unemployment, home foreclosures and worries that time away from work could costs jobs is forcing potential jurors to ask for temporary way out.

"Financial strain is a big issue," said Carter, who manages Goodhue County jurors. "Many people will say they just started a job and are afraid to take the time off."

Minnesota jurors get paid $10 a day plus mileage, a rate set by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Lunch is free during deliberation, otherwise jurors are on their own.

Employers are legally obligated to allow an employee to serve on a jury but they do not have to pay you for the time you're gone.

Carter said she noticed in January more people asking to have their jury duty postponed due to financial reasons.

The trend got worse for people put on jury duty for April, May and June.

"Most of the time I try to work them because it's tough out there," Carter said.

Jurors may submit written requests to postpone or delay their service. A judge ultimately decides if a request is reasonable.

First District Court Judge Thomas Bibus said financial concerns dominate potential jurors' postponement requests.

"And that's been over the years," said Bibus, who is seated in Goodhue County. "That's always been something that's been there as a factor."

Carter said she is willing to work with potential jurors who have financial or scheduling concerns.

"Being on a jury is not going to totally disrupt your life," she said.

The details:

• Goodhue County petit jury terms last for three months. Those selected will be on call for that period of time

• There have been four Goodhue County jury trials so far this year and 10 - plus a grand jury proceeding - in 2008

• Jurors may be permanently excused from service for the following reasons only:

- A person over age 70 who requests to be excused

- A person who medically cannot serve with a doctor's statement verifying a permanent illness

• Pay is $10 a day and .27 cents per mile round trip from your home

• The Minnesota Supreme Court has appropriated funding for daycare compensation

• Employers are obligated to allow you to serve as a juror but they do not have to pay you

• Those who do not show up for jury service can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail

Source: www.mncourts.gov

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