Can Bipolar Disorder Get You Out of Jury Duty?

Jury in a Courtroom
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The simple answer to this question is – maybe.  It’s important to note that in many states the rules may vary from county to county or district to district, so if you receive a jury summons, it’s essential that you read the summons and accompanying documents carefully. I also strongly recommend that you visit the court website for your location.

State Examples of Rules Regarding Mental Illness Excuses:

One California court site says that if a juror has a serious physical or mental condition, and is under the age of 70, a “statement from a doctor that clearly states that the juror cannot serve jury duty for medical reasons” is required.

The New York State Courts website says that in the case of illness, a prospective juror must demonstrate satisfactorily that he or she has “a mental or physical condition that renders him or her incapable of performing jury service.”

In Maryland, you are disqualified if you “[h]ave a disability that prevents you from providing satisfactory jury service (this must be documented by a health care provider).”

New Hampshire appears to have somewhat restrictive rules regarding excusal from jury duty due to mental or physical illness.  According to its posted rules, not only must you have the medical condition, but you must be on temporary or permanent disability because of it.

In Hawaii, a physician’s or physician’s assistant’s certificate must be submitted as proof of disability or medical condition. This is not a guarantee that your request will be approved (which is true in many states).

The Utah website simply states, “Judges can excuse you for public necessity, extreme inconvenience, or if you are incapable of jury service.” However, they send you a form that you can fill out and return by mail or fill out and submit online.

I wasn’t able to access the online form, so I can’t tell you what questions are asked.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s website also has an online questionnaire. It also states, “If you are not mentally or physically able to serve as a juror, provide medical certification in the remarks section of the questionnaire.”

Delaware’s website only states, “The court excuses persons from jury service only upon a showing of undue hardship, extreme inconvenience or public necessity.” There is a questionnaire that must be filled out and submitted.

Washington State’s website says potential jurors “may be excused from jury service if they have illnesses that would interfere with their ability to do a good job.”

The Court of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, says a juror may be excused if he or she, “[h]as a physical or mental disability. Must submit a signed statement by a licensed physician, psychiatrist or psychologist, on doctor's letterhead setting forth ALL of the following: a diagnosis of the mental or physical condition, a prognosis of the length of time the mental or physical condition is expected to continue, and a conclusion that the prospective juror is not capable of performing jury service.”

In Oklahoma County, OK, you are required to appear a week before your jury duty is scheduled, bringing along all needed supporting documents for your request to be excused.  The only exception is if you are 70 years of age or older, when you may request exemption by telephone.

Wisconsin’s website does not mention mental illness at all, and only provides telephone contacts for county courts.

Other states and courts that specify mental or physical conditions as being an acceptable and possible excuse for jury duty include:

Once again, I emphasize that you can’t count on being excused or permanently disqualified for jury duty because of your bipolar disorder.

  All requests are reviewed.  Also, note that some in some states you will receive notice if you are excused and are expected to appear if you don’t get that notice, while in other states you will receive notice if you are not excused and don’t have to appear if you don’t get that notice.

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