On the heels of the VMAs, Taylor Swift was spotted reporting for jury duty. Apparently, famous people have a civic duty as well, even if that encourages many more courthouse selfies than usual.
Taylor Swift during the Red Tour, March 2013, Image via Wikimedia Commons
Taylor Swift recently made headlines for doing something millions of American citizens do every year: jury duty. Swift was seen at jury duty Monday morning in Nashville, Tennessee where her fellow jurors posted photos of the singer looking more like a commoner than ever before. The judge reportedly dismissed Swift from serving on the jury for an aggravated rape case. Swift currently has a pending civil case that also involves sexual assault.
Regardless, Swift's appearance still raises an interesting question: Do celebrities really have to go to jury duty?
The short answer is yes. Celebrities who are US citizens have to show up when they are inevitably summoned for jury duty. A quick Google search yields photos of Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Hanks, Madonna, and even former President George W. Bush all doing their civic duty.
However, it remains rare for a famous person to actually sit on a jury.
"Showing up doesn't mean you will actually be picked to serve on a jury," Steven Zeidman, a professor at CUNY School of Law, tells Broadly. "Judges have discretion to excuse jurors for myriad reasons and are likely to let someone go if they have pressing job responsibilities or some similar obligation."
Zeidman also points out that lawyers may dismiss individuals from serving on a jury, too.
"While I'm sure that many lawyers would likely be enthralled by the chance to perform in front of a celebrity, most are probably leery about whether the one celebrity juror would be helpful or harmful to their client's cause," explains Zeidman. "The lawyers can also kibosh some jurors from sitting on a particular case."
Nevertheless, in 2015, the Hollywood Reporter spoke with a Los Angeles litigator who said celebrities have a harder time getting dismissed from jury duty than they did ten years ago, and Steven Zeidman explained to Broadly that New York State "abolished a host of exemptions from jury service about twenty years ago."
The fanfare around some celebrities who have served as jurors has also caused problems in the past. Tom Hanks' involvement on a jury in a domestic assault case in 2013 led to a mistrial being called after a prosecutor involved in the case approached the actor and thanked him for serving. Oprah's service on a jury for a 2004 murder case had no consequences legally, though she is quoted as having criticized the amount of media attention around her service. "This is not good for the victim's family. This is not about Oprah Winfrey, the fact is a man has been murdered."
Whether or not Taylor Swift actually ends up being called to serve on a Tennessee jury remains to be seen. It does make you wonder, though, if being insanely rich and famous doesn't get you out of such tediousness as jury duty, what hope do the rest of us have?