Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Is Exempting Jurors for Age Antiquated?

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Is Exempting Jurors for Age Antiquated?

Article excerpt

You may be a septuagenarian who can run six miles a day or bench press 250 pounds at the gym, but down at the courthouse, you might be too old to sit on a jury.

New Jersey allows its golden-years citizens to be excused from jury duty if they are over the age of 75. It's a rule that courts in many states have adopted across the country, and is often dismissed by many who see it as a notion long outdated by the changing concept of aging.

"Seventy is not old, 80 is not old, even 90 is not old," said Frank Lucianna, a 91-year-old practicing attorney in Hackensack, who is an avid swimmer and runs several miles a week. "I don't think people should be excused just because of their age unless they have a medical condition."

Others, however, argue that the over-75 exemption is a reasonable privilege that should be accorded to seniors. The athletic prowess of the likes of Lucianna aside, old age often comes with physical and mental challenges, they say.

"Many people at that age are capable of doing everything that everybody else does," said state Sen. Gerald Cardinale, a Republican from Demarest and an octogenarian who was in the state Legislature when the exemptions were enacted nearly 20 years ago. "But others may have frailties, and I think it's wise to have an exemption."

For decades, state law automatically disqualified people over the age of 75 from serving as jurors. That law was amended in 1995 so that those over the age of 75 can serve on a jury if they choose to, but can also ask to be excused, said Tamara Kendig, a spokeswoman for the state Administrative Office of the Courts.

"The current law reflects the fact that many jurors over 75 had expressed interest in serving as jurors, and that they were now in a better position to serve because they no longer had work or child- care obligations," Kendig said.

Courts in other states have similar exemptions. Pennsylvania, Florida, Virginia and several others allow senior citizens to be exempt from jury duty if they are over the age of 70. Federal courts also have a similar rule for 70-plus citizens.

California, meanwhile, allows jurors over the age of 70 to be excused only if they have a medical condition, although they are not required to produce a doctor's note. …

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