What is the First Step in Selecting US Citizens to Serve as Members of a Jury?

The concept of a jury trial is a cornerstone of the United States judicial system. As enshrined in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is one of the safeguards of individual liberty. But how are these jurors chosen? What is the first step in selecting U.S. citizens to serve as members of a jury? It’s a process known as the creation of a jury pool, or master jury wheel, and it begins with the random selection of names from the community.

Creation of the Master Jury Wheel

The first step in jury selection starts well before the trial itself with the creation of the master jury wheel. This process involves the random selection of names from a cross-section of the community where the court is located. The idea is to ensure the jury pool is as representative as possible of the community.

In federal courts, the names are usually drawn from sources like voter registration lists or lists of licensed drivers. The Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 requires that federal courts randomly select from a fair cross-section of the community in the district or division wherein the court convenes. Some courts may also use additional sources like telephone directories or utility lists to supplement the pool.

These names are placed into what is known as the “master jury wheel,” or in many courts today, a computerized database. The actual number of names in the master jury wheel varies and depends on the size of the court jurisdiction, but it usually includes thousands of potential jurors.

Jury Summons

Once the master jury wheel is assembled, the second step can begin, which is the issuing of a jury summons. When a trial is approaching, names are randomly selected from the master wheel, and these individuals are sent a summons, a legal document that orders them to report to the courthouse on a specific date and time for potential jury service.

The summoned individuals must then complete a qualification questionnaire to determine their eligibility to serve on a jury. Certain disqualifications and exemptions may apply, depending on factors like age, citizenship, English proficiency, physical or mental ability, and prior criminal convictions.

Voir Dire and Jury Selection

After the summons and qualification process, the individuals report to court for jury selection, known as voir dire. This process involves the judge and sometimes the attorneys asking prospective jurors questions to identify any biases or inability to fairly decide the case. Those who are not dismissed during this process may be sworn in as the jury for the trial.


The first step in selecting U.S. citizens to serve as members of a jury — the creation of the master jury wheel from a cross-section of the community — is fundamental to ensuring a fair and impartial jury. This foundation of diverse and randomly selected individuals helps to uphold the principle of a trial by a jury of one’s peers, an essential element of the American justice system.

By Billy Jaimes