Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers (left) and Councilman Sam Low.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers (left) and Councilman Sam Low.

Two local politicians could wind up in court — for jury duty

The Snohomish County officials are among 60,000 called to serve on local juries each year.

EVERETT — The two pols were surprised to wind up swimming in the same pool — Monday’s jury pool.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and County Councilman Sam Low recently received jury summonses to Snohomish County Superior Court. It struck them as an amusing coincidence that both had to report this week.

“It’s probably been 10 or 15 years since I was called last,” Somers said. “I actually served on a jury the last time I was called. I enjoyed the experience. I think it’s a good thing for everybody to do.”

About 60,000 people in Snohomish County get summoned each year for jury duty in superior court and district courts. It’s a random process, so it was a little unusual for the two elected officials to get called the same week. Low, a Republican, lives in Lake Stevens proper. Somers, a Democrat, lives outside Monroe, in Low’s council district.

“I represent Dave and he represents me,” Low said.

It was too early to say who might be needed in court Monday — or if they would eventually wind up on a jury.

In theory, anyone who lives in Snohomish County could get called for jury duty if he or she is registered to vote here or has a state-issued driver’s license or official identification card with a local address. That doesn’t mean they’re eligible to serve on a jury, though.

Jurors must be over 18, U.S. citizens and able to communicate in English. Convicted felons are only eligible after having their civil rights restored.

The County Clerk’s Office starts the process by compiling lists of registered voters, licenses and ID cards, said Heidi Percy, the office’s judicial operations manager. That yields about 1 million names. Weeding out duplicates leaves them with about 500,000 names. They randomly select 80,000 for the year, using an algorithm.

In a typical week, they could mail out 1,000 summonses for superior and district courts. That’s also a random process.

They might call on 150 to 250 to show up in court that week, depending on the number of trials taking place. The jurors get parking passes for the county garage.

“If we have six or seven trials going on, we might call in the whole 250,” Percy said.

If people have scheduling conflicts, the clerk’s office can accommodate them for another date, Percy said. Staff must approve requests to be excused for undue hardship or other reasons defined by state law.

Potential jurors must call in each day.

“Jurors are summoned to appear for one week or one trial,” Percy said. “They are expected to call in each night to see if they are needed for jury duty until they have been excused for the term.”

If their group number comes up, the juror would have to show up in court. From that group, a smaller number is impaneled. That’s when attorneys would start voir dire, asking questions to determine a juror’s ability to decide a case fairly and impartially.

Once a trial starts, the juror is there for the duration. More complex cases can go well over a week.

Intentionally ignoring a summons, in theory, could result in a misdemeanor. It’s up to the individual court whether to pursue charges. Jurors are paid $10 per day plus round-trip mileage from home to court. The court does not pay for or provide childcare. Employers aren’t required to pay employees during jury duty, though some do.

Somers said the jury he served on years ago heard a domestic violence rape case that ended with the defendant’s acquittal.

“It was a window into a world most people don’t see,” he said.

Low said he was last called two years ago. The timing was a bit inconvenient, coming in the fall during his first run for the County Council, as his campaign was in full swing.

“People told me not to do it,” he recalled. He ignored them.

In the end, he wasn’t picked.

This time, he’s eager for the experience.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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