New bill would allow seniors over 70 to opt out of jury duty in DC

District Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton introduced a bill on Monday that would allow people who are 70 years of age or older to opt out of jury duty at the D.C. Superior Court.

"I’m just aiming to make D.C. equal to everybody else," Norton said, adding that most federal courts already allow that age group to opt out, including in the District. She said many state courts already do, too.

"They should be able to opt out because they’ve already done a lot of service," explained Norton.

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 17: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) listens as Robin Carnahan (not in the picture), the Administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), delivers remark during an event at the Department of Homeland Security'

Outside of the courthouse Monday night, reactions were mixed.

"There’s no reason why a senior of 70 or 80, it doesn’t really matter, should be in a sense, given the opportunity to disenfranchise themselves.," said Colin Dunham, a defense attorney.

"Sometimes when you up there in that age, about that 70 bracket, you know, you lose a little focus I believe," countered Nathaniel Payne, who said he’d be in favor of the legislation.

When asked whether he believes people of the same age should be able to run for elected office, Payne replied, "No."

New bill would allow seniors over 70 to opt out of jury duty in DC

It’s a view held by many Americans, according to at least one prominent survey. And so, especially considering the upcoming presidential election and the ages of the likely candidates, FOX 5 also asked Norton what she would say to people who learn of her jury duty legislation and think, If you can opt out of jury duty when you’re older than 70, then there should be a maximum age limit to hold elected office too.

"You’d never get that bill passed here in the House. There are too many older people," Norton chuckled, before adding, "what we have now is people opting in or out of running for president. So, in a real sense, they already have it."


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Regarding jury duty specifically, Norton underscored that she is proposing an opt out, not a ban.

"Though they’re able to opt out, I hope that many of them are able to opt in," she said, noting that it can be difficult for many younger people to serve on juries due to work or other commitments.

Norton added that she expects her legislation to pass, and if all goes as planned, it could potentially go into effect in 2024.