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Jury Duty: A Migraine Minefield

I went to jury duty the othe day. I knew that it was risky, but I I had been doing so well lately I thought I could handle it. The room was way too hot..bomb#1. Every little old lady around me had taken a bath in her favorite perfume that morning..bomb #2. The man in front of me evidently had just finished smoking a whole pack of cigarettes..bomb#3. The beautiful fluorescent lighting in the room had been set to xray, it was so bright..bomb#4. The judge felt it was his duty to reeducate all of those people who did not pay attention in high school civics on the wonders of the judicial system and talked non stop for 20 minutes..bomb #5.

By the time we got to the part where the judge asks “if anyone in the room feels they cannot serve please line up over here,” I was a mess. I was sweating profusely, my head was splitting, and I knew if I stayed much longer I was going to have a serious problem. I got up though stood in line a shaking, sweaty mess. When I got to the judge I told him I had Chronic Migraine and that I was sorry for my appearance but I spent most of my days with a headache and it made difficult to concentrate. He just looked at me and said “Maybe you can just work through it today.” I just could not even process this. I can just “work through” this neurological disease that has taken over my life??I just stood there staring at him, he finally gave me a postponement. Like I’m going to be better 6 months from now???

It is frustrating. Are they going to make “accommodations” for my disease? Are they going to tell everyone not to wear perfume and turn off the lights and please don’t smoke before coming??

It’s not just a headache, I can’t “work through it.” It’s a CHRONIC DISEASE. If JUDGES treat people this way what hope do we have???

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • maureen52
    2 years ago

    The court is one of the least understanding, but if you word things right and go prepared, you should be able to get a better excuse. I am a criminal defense attorney who conducted jury trials that sometimes lasted 2-3 months where we always gave it our all 24-7. I did that for for about 34 years and then developed chronic migraine. I hung in there full time for one year, getting a note from my neurologist to excuse me from a case I had been working of for years but could no longer handle to to the frequency of my migraines and their response to stress. I am now part-time and will not go to trial at all but only handle matters that can be settled in a straightforward matter or forwarded to another attorney. A judge is used to every excuse in the book. And yes, most men think we can work through our migraines and if they excuse someone for migraines they will have to excuse someone else for hangnails. So if there is no box to check on the jury summons, bring a scholarly article that explains that chronic migraine is a disease that can contribute to your cognitive abilities. No judge would put someone on a jury panel wit Alzheimers. Bring your water bottle and your meds. Raise your hands and take the breaks you need on day one while you are waiting to get excused. Make a paper fan. I always have a bottle of vicks vapo-rub in my purse to over-power perfume odors. Wear sunglasses and have a note fron your doctor as to why. Talk to the bailiff. You will be out of there on day One.

  • Eleanor R.
    2 years ago

    I tried one day of jury duty with a migraine and then got doctors’ notes requesting they excuse me, and I was always excused. My thought was that I wouldn’t want to make a decision for myself with a migraine if I could avoid it, so I shouldn’t be making decisions for other people. I was never required to serve.

  • Patnjo
    2 years ago

    Hi .. I also live where we are asked in advance if there are medical reasons we cannot serve. I was summoned a few times recently from different Courts; Federal, State, Local and each had a slightly different procedure. One did require a doctors note but the others did not. I was excused in each case but I don’t know if they will summon me again or will consider the condition to be “permanent”, Before migraine I was ok with Jury Duty but now I cannot even imagine going through that. I’m sorry that you did not have a more understanding Judge.

  • Joanna Bodner moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi there allinmyhead,
    Thanks so much for sharing your story that I am sure many in our community can relate all to well too! The experience of jury duty sure can one of the most trigger filled environments! I thought you may also find enjoyable to read one of our contributor’s experience as well – She ironically refers to it the same as you (minefield)! 🙂 For the future, maybe it would be worthwhile to speak to your doctor and see if he/she could provide you with letter to explain this disease and living with this condition. Thanks again & especially for being here! -Joanna ( Team)

  • Luna
    2 years ago

    In my area there is a place on the jury duty summons to ask to be excused from duty. I always say that I have extreme sensitivities to odors and bright lights and having chronic migraine that I would not be able to function for jury duty. Works for me.

  • D Williams
    2 years ago

    I tried to explain that I would get migraines twice a month and they would last a couple of days in a row and the medication I would take was administered was by needle and I had to carry it with me. When you mention needles at a court house of course they all freak out and were not understanding at all with the medication. They told me I would have to leave it in my car and I would have to explain to the judge why I would have to leave to take my medication. I was still stuck with Jury Duty but I got lucky with never being actually selected to sit in a trial.

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