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How are service dogs handled in jury selection and Court appearances in general.

I work in a local county courthouse. This is information is based on actual experience in my state, and general knowledge of courtroom procedure. State and Munciple Courts fall under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (The ADA). Federal Courts do not. I called a number of Federal Courts in several states; Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Maryland, and Maine -- requesting information as a potential juror who has a service dog. All stated that my service dog would be accommodated. Several told me that under the Federal Rehab Act, since Federal Buildings are exempt from the ADA, would apply.

I can tell you from an employment point of view, the State pushed me to the very edge of the envelope before granting the accommodation for me to have my service dog. They knew for a full year that I had applied for a service dog - and the 60 days before I left for Team Training they decided to push every possible hoop in my face until they figured out I was absolutely not going to back down. Then they granted me the accommodation and now, I have State's attorney's, and Judges and the ADA liason's in each courthouse in my state calling "the girl with the dog". I am currently the first and the only Judicial Branch employee with a service dog. For my employer, I am a test case. Other employees who are disabled may be granted the accommodation based on their experience with me.

Do not expect local judges and state's attorneys and defense attorneys to know about service dog laws. They don't. Unless it is an attorney that handles disability law, they will not know the full ins and outs of Service Dog Laws. They call me all the time. I keep copies of access laws on my desk, in a folder, since I am often asked to fax copies of the laws -- especially the questions that legally can be asked. Be prepared to answer the two questions that public places are allowed to ask. And you are still required to keep your dog under control as stated in ADA law. Your dog must be leashed; must not be disruptive and must always act appropriately. Despite the fact that you are granted the privilege of having your service dog accompany you, if your dog is disruptive or does not act appropriately, you can be required to remove your dog.

For the most part court personnel are pretty good about the dog being present in the courtroom. The problem with jury duty could be other jurors having a fear of the dog - other jurors having allergies to the dog - and then there are the logistics of having a dog in jury duty - that being taking your dog potty. Court days are pretty regimented. For example, court opens at 8:30 for pretrial/prehearing discussions. Court goes into session at 10am, recess between 11:30-11:45...lunch 1:00-2:00...back in session at 2:00 to 3:15, recess until 3:30 and day ends at 4:50-5:00. If you have a dog on a different schedule than that - you may have an unhappy dog. I have adjusted my service dog's schedule from what she was on while we were at Team Training and when she was at the Organization, I worked hard to get her on my work schedule - and I keep her on that - even on the weekends.

Some attorneys are not so keen on the dog in the courtroom. They may feel it is a distraction and may excuse you from jury duty just. And you will have no clue that that is why they did not choose you, because they are not required to say...form of discrimination? Probably -- but nothing you can really do about it since they are not required to say why they don't feel you would be a good juror on the case. It actually is probably totally unrelated.

I have had only two instances where the attorney's objected to my dog -- one was trial on an animal cruelty case - the person was accused to have committed animal cruelty and the attorneys felt that my dog being in the courtroom would be prejudicial to the case. They called my supervisor and I was switched with another reporter. The other time was a civil case - the plaintiff was afraid of dogs and was not comfortable with being in the courtroom with her. And even though she is attached to me and is actually under my desk in the courtroom...it didn't matter to this woman...she had a deep seated terror of dogs - and again, I was switched with another reporter.

I was called for a grand jury in Federal Court and was eventually not picked. However, I did appear for Jury Duty with my service dog and everyone was very understanding; and accommodating to me and my service dog. In January of 2013, a Palm Beach County Florida jury had a service dog trainer serve on a jury and the dog was permitted to remain with its trainer during the course of the trial. The Judge had noted it was the first time he had ever had a dog on a jury.


It really comes down to whether not your dog can handle it - and whether or not you can handle it - and whether or not your fellow jurors can handle it.