Serving the High Plains

Jury duty rules change for seniors

A new state law will make it easier for senior citizens to permanently excuse themselves from jury service.

The new law applies to residents age 75 and older who have been summoned to jury duty. They no longer will be required to submit an affidavit if they want to be excused from jury service.

Starting June 18, those qualifying residents can request an excusal online through the state court system’s jury website at https://nmcourts.jpjuroraccess.com/login.

Another option is to call a local court for more information.

“New Mexico courts sought the change in law to offer more convenience for our senior citizens and allow courts to operate more efficiently. We anticipate this will be useful especially for those senior citizens who are hesitant about jury service during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Vigil said.

According to Census Bureau population estimates, 7% of New Mexicans are age 75 and older, or about 153,000 residents.

Particularly in rural areas, qualifying residents might need to travel a long distance to pick up the affidavit form to request a jury service exemption, pay a fee for the affidavit to be notarized and return it to their local court.

A statewide computer system used by courts for jury management since 2017 can automatically verify an individual’s date of birth. The computer database is updated twice annually from income tax, voter registration and driving records.

“Technology enables courts to more efficiently meet the needs of New Mexicans,” said Artie Pepin, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts. “The affidavit requirement also added work for courts because of the time to process the paperwork of an excusal request.”

A person age 75 or older can seek the jury exemption only if they have received a summons for jury duty. State law long has allowed individuals to request a permanent excusal from jury service once they reach age 75, but that was permitted only by submitting a notarized affidavit.

“New Mexicans 75 and older can continue to serve on juries if they wish,” Pepin said. “The Legislature amended the law to remove an unnecessary affidavit requirement that was a source of inconvenience for some residents of our state.”

Rep. Matthew McQueen of Santa Fe and Sen. Elizabeth "Liz" Stefanics of Cerrillos sponsored the legislation (House Bill 185), which was signed into law last week by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

 
 
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