Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Actual Jury Duty: Day 1

I guess it had to happen sooner or later. Yes, indeed, 29 days since starting my two month term as a member of the local jury pool, today I finally set foot in the court house for the first time. My lack of service thus far does not seem to be due to the events from the ongoing Juice-Without-A-Car saga, as I had transportation during most of that period in one form or another. I suspect instead that weather and holiday delays were the major culprits.

Since the weather has been clear for about a week, though, and since the holidays were over, I was pretty sure there was no avoiding today's scheduled service. This morning, while eating breakfast, I fished out my wallet to call the courthouse line, as instructed, to make sure court was still on. It was, so I finished up my food, kicked the dogs and cats out of the house, and headed in.

I found parking near the courthouse and started across the street toward it when I realized I had forgotten the name of the judge whose court I was to report to in a few minutes. My memory for names is awful. When I worked in the "liberry" I prided myself on being able to mentally match names to faces for the majority of our patrons. Since leaving, my skills have rusted so much that I can usually only recall the first letter of most people's names. And, in fact, that's all I could come up with for the judge. Good thing I'd written it on the back of my jury hotline card, which was in my wallet, which was... unexpectedly not in my back pocket. I'd evidently left it on the breakfast table. Shit.

I tried to phone the wife, who was off today, but she didn't answer either number. I decided I'd deal with it later and hoped they didn't require proof of identity. I passed through the metal detectors, asked the guard at the door where the courtrooms were, and then climbed three flights of stairs to get there. I'd hoped the judge's name would be listed somewhere, but no such luck. I noted, though, that one courtroom was labeled "Criminal" and the other "Circuit," which was the branch I was to report to. Sure enough, peering through the round windows in the swinging doors, I saw a large room filled with a bunch of dismal looking souls all seated on one side.

"You hear for jury duty?" asked a lady who'd walked up to the door.

"Yeah. I can't remember the judge's name, though."

She offered the correct name with the correct first letter. We went in and had a seat on the back bench behind all the dismal souls.

Soon enough, the clerk whose voice I knew from the jury hotline arrived and called roll. Most of us were present. She asked if anyone had any excuses and then put all the cards with our names into a box, which she shook vigorously for a while. Not knowing the process, I wondered if we'd be chosen from some sort of raffle. That didn't seem like something I'd learned in my 22 years distant, high school course Intro to Law, but whatever.

After 20 minutes, lawyery types began to arrive, as did a couple of people I thought might be witnesses. Then a bailiff entered and told us to stand as judge whatshisnose entered. The judge said some things about the trial, but I couldn't understand a lot of it because one of the latecomers behind me chose that moment to start a coughing fit. Great.

The judge then asked if there were any motions to be heard before the trial began and one of the attorneys asked to approach. Both attorney's and a man I assume was the defendant approached. I couldn't make out much of what they were saying, not only because of the cougher, but also because they were speaking in hushed tones. The phrase "refuses to testify" did come up. After a couple of minutes, the attorneys backed off and the judge announced that matters in the case had been settled out of court and it appeared they would not be needing our services after all. He offered that this sort of thing occasionally happened, due to a variety of factors, several of which he listed, but seeming to place special emphasis on the final example of people not being able to make up their minds. He told us we were still an important part of the proceedings that day, that we still needed to call the hotline after 4:30 to find out when we would next be needed, and that we would receive full credit for being there. We were then excused.

You have never seen a happier group of people that the formerly dismal souls leaving the courtroom. Everyone was grinning.

I just called the hotline. Looks like they won't be needing me until sometime after the 11th. I'm still willing to serve, but, the way things have been going, I would not be surprised if I don't receive any real jury time at all.


chaniarts said...

i get called for jury duty every 2 years, like clockwork. living in a metropolitan area of 4 million, you'd think they wouldn't recycle the list so frequently. i also have never failed to be seated on a case.

sometimes life isn't fair.

crsunlimited said...

Often makes me wonder if it's the process that people hate, not the actual Duty itself.