I reported for jury duty today promptly at 8:30am. I parked where the mailer directed me to and made it through the security check and up to the 6th floor, where I walked into a large auditorium-like room where about fifty people were already seated. After getting my parking validated so that I didn’t have to pay and checking in and getting a badge, I took a seat. Well over 100 people continued to check in behind me and the room began to fill up. I was amazed at the number of people who parked in the wrong place and had to be instructed to go move their vehicle. Can people not read and follow instructions? Of course, I was also amazed at the number of people who came in late, but they continued to check people up to almost 9am – filling the room with a good 200 people.
We were each given a booklet to read which explains the court system and gives information about serving as a juror. I was amused by the numerous typos in the booklet and the erroneous explanations of things like things being delayed because a judge may excuse himself to go look up a law. Umm…I guess that’s why surgery takes so long too. Excuse me while I go consult a book because I forgot how to do this. Here’s a good one right from the book…”In order for a plaintiff to win a civil case, it is only necessary to “cause you to believe” the propositions necessary to support the plaintiff’s claim are more likely true than not true.” Huh? More about that one later. How about this one about discussing the trial afterwards…”You should consider that, as with any form of one-way communication, the lawyers’ presentation of their care result in very little feedback. They may seek your post-trial comments in an earnest attempt to improve their skills as advocates.” Sure, let me take a moment to tell you why you sucked and why you lost. By the way, the lady justice statue is pictured on the front of the book with no blindfold! Interesting!
At 9:30am, a judge came in and spoke to everyone explaining how the day would go. After that, we were free to wonder around the room. Several people ran to check out the snack machines. I sat there, next to a very smelly man who proceeded to take a nap and snore, and just checked out my surroundings before settling into the book I’d brought. The signs on the wall made me laugh. There were several that read “Thank you for your service,” or “Thank you for being a part of the system,” or “12 Jurors, 1 Purpose, Justice for all.” All these signs were surrounded by those cardboard foil stars (in red, white and blue) that you see in classrooms.
At 10am, a bailiff came in and called out 36 names and those people left. At 10:15am, another bailiff came in and took another 36 people. The next bailiff didn’t come in till 11:15 and guess whose name got called in that group? I was actually glad to get called because I was so tired of sitting in the waiting room next to smelly man after having read about 60 pages of my book. We were all taken down to the 3rd floor where we waited for another twenty minutes outside a courtroom. Finally, the bailiff escorted us in and assigned us to seats. The judge introduced himself and told us a bit about what to expect next, and then dismissed us for lunch till 1:30pm. Yep, all this waiting to finally get into a courtroom and then be excused for lunch. We were also instructed to where our numbered badges everywhere we went so that people possibly involved in a case would not talk about stuff out in public in case we might overhear and it could sway our opinion. Believe me, they indeed felt like scarlet letters.
Although we returned at 1:30pm, we weren’t let back into the courtroom until almost 2pm. Yep…nothing runs on schedule in the court system. At this time, the plaintiff’s lawyer got up and started asking questions that were so subjective that they were almost hard to answer because we still knew little about the case. We were introduced to the plaintiff and the defendant, but other than being told this was about a car accident (that actually happened just a few blocks from my house), we were told nothing else. The plaintiff’s lawyer asked questions like…did we know where this accident happened? Did we remember an accident from the day it happened? Umm…this happened in January 2009 by the way. Oh yes! I remember that. Yep, I said 2009…another sign that nothing runs on time in our court system.
Rounds of questions went all the way till 4pm when we were finally given a small break. I really felt sorry for the plaintiff’s lawyer. His questions were so subjective and so redundant. And he started with all this weird stuff about lady justice and tilting the scales in favor of the plaintiff by even just 1%. Did we think that was fair? Well, the defendant’s lawyer didn’t like that and they all got called up the bench to whisper about it. Then he carried on…Had we ever been sued? Had we ever been in an accident? Had anyone in our family ever been sued or been in an accident? Did we know what whip lash was? On and on and on…. Finally! He finished by asking each of us about our occupations and then the defendant’s lawyer got up and asked the group as a whole two single questions and was done.
At 4:30, we were sent back out for a 20 minute break while they selected their jury. And thankfully, I didn’t get picked. The people who did get picked were a nice balance of young and old, black and white, and mainly those who had spoken very little or had very neutral opinions throughout the Q&A process. Then, the judge told the rest of us we could turn in our badges and go home because we were not needed anymore. Yahoo! I was home by 6pm which was what time I usually get home from work anyway.
Overall, it was an interesting process. But lots of waiting and waiting and waiting. If you ever have to serve, take a book! Speaking of…I was also amazed at the number of people who practically brought an overnight bag. Lots of people with lap tops and big back packs. I saw iPads, iPods, Kindles, and cell phones galore. I had left my phone in the car because it had a camera on it and the instructions said no cameras. But oh well, I guess in today’s technological age, those things are allowed.
I’m just glad it’s over and my service is done.