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City juries to serve longer



Fredericksburg residents who are eligible for jury duty will have to serve for three-month periods instead of one month at a time beginning next year.

The change is a result of Circuit Court Clerk Jeff Small’s office taking over the responsibility of assigning jury duty from the Sheriff’s Office.

The three-month term coincides with the court’s term, Small said. There are four terms per year.

Small said the city was having trouble getting enough people to serve on juries and that’s why the term was extended from one month to three.

It’s a problem Fredericksburg runs into because it’s much smaller than the surrounding counties, with a population of about 25,000 people and an even smaller jury pool to pick from.

Small said there are typically six to eight juries needed per month.

When his office took over the process of notifying jurors, he worked with the Supreme Court and Judge Gordon Willis and got the city a computer system that essentially will do the work of randomly picking jurors.

The list of eligible people is pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Voter Registrar.

Chosen jurors receive a letter informing them they’ve been selected.

Once the potential jurors are selected randomly, they will receive a letter in the mail informing them that they’ve been selected for jury service.

In the third week of each month before the individual’s jury duty, the Sheriff’s Office will serve them with specific dates for jury duty.

For example, people who will serve in the January through March terms will be served the third weeks of December, January and February.

The day before their scheduled service, prospective jurors can call a special number to find out if there is still a jury trial planned for that day.

Small said there are 21 other cities and counties in Virginia that use three-month terms for jurors.

People who have plans for those three months already—travel, business, etc.—can provide verification of those plans to Small’s office, and they will be removed from the pool for those days, Small said.

Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413