As some of you may realize, getting a summons in the mail isn’t really an unusual occurrence here at our house. That just comes with the territory when you’re stuck dealing with difficult people in your life (*fingers crossed, eyes closed* “Just 8 and a half more years! Just 8 and a half more years!”). So, when I got the most recent one, of course my first thought wasn’t ‘what’s this?’, but rather, ‘ugh – what this time?’. Big sigh of relief – it’s just a jury duty summons! Awesome!
I know, I must be a sick person to actually be excited for jury duty, right? Well, because it’s not court proceedings where I’m directly involved in the case. It’s really as simple as that.
Now, mind you, that letter came about a month and a half ago and just a couple days ago, I finished my service and there are 3 things I’ve learned since I got that letter:
#1) You don’t have to stick with the dates that you are originally selected for.
The dates that I was originally assigned were completely inconvenient to some prior family plans that we had in place. I saw on the letter that I could reschedule up to 90 days after the assigned time and when I called, the woman just asked me when I would like to change it to and she didn’t even ask me for a reason. It was very easy.
#2) You don’t have to be a registered voter anymore to be selected for jury duty.
This isn’t the case for me – I have actually voted in every presidential election and almost every state & local election for the past 16 years, but what I didn’t know is that at some point along the line, they opened the potential jurors pool up to licensed drivers as well. I’m unclear if this is a voluntary thing or if your name is automatically registered with the privilege of having a driver’s license and I’m not really going to seek out that information for you. If that freaks you out, then shame on you for not wanting to vote because non-voters are part of the problem in our system today …but that’s another post for another time.
Now, before I go on to number three, I want to kind of interject a bit of my experience. I noticed that there was a questionnaire on the summons asking for basic profile information about myself. You know, if I’d had any felonies, where do I live, am I married – the sort of thing that tells attorneys what kind of person you might be to help them make a final decision at jury selection. The problem was that I was supposed to respond with that info within 10 days of receiving the letter. Oops – that didn’t happen, so what does that mean? Was I going to get shit from the person at the desk when I went down?
So, I get down to the registration window and there is a line I have to wait in. Now, when I say there is a line, this is quite the understatement. This is an “Oh my god, all you people have been here camped out for three days for these concert tickets?” kind of line. The crappy cell phone picture that I have included here was the halfway point . These lines actually wrapped around the corner to my right for about the same length. And there was no ventilation. And many of these people apparently had unwashed, sweaty scalps. It was not pleasant. …But finally, I made it to the window and I let the woman know that I missed my 10 days for the questionnaire and she handed me a small paper with the same questions on it, I filled it out and she gave me my juror button, an informational brochure and sent me on my way. There was a video orientation, an oral follow up presentation and a brief Q&A session and then we were there to wait for the next 5 days (or at least that’s what was to be expected).
The orientation presenter told us that we would have lunch breaks from 11:30-1:15 (and since my wife works right down the street, that made for a couple of nice lunch dates) and she also said that if we weren’t called by 3:30, we would be released for the day – so all in all, it wasn’t a bad deal. I was able to read a large portion of a book I’ve been dying to dig into. They had free wifi service, so I was able to check emails and screw around on Facebook and whatnot on the Kindle and I found out that my job pays full salary for jury service time, so no vacation or personal days had to be used to compensate for the money I could have potentially lost. It was actually not an unpleasant experience at all.
I started my service on Monday and was called onto a juror panel on Tuesday. We were in sequestration and had to fill out an additional profile questionnaire from the judge. We never actually had to sit on a case, but before releasing us back into the jury pool, the judge wanted to come and talk with us. Deena Calabrese was the judge we were selected for and here’s where I learned the 3rd thing about jury duty that I didn’t know before.
#3) A jury is selected for use by a specific judge, not a specific case (per say).
Judge Calabrese (I voted for her, by the way) had told us that she was excited to have us as her jury panel [a panel is 22 potential jurors from which 14 will be selected from which 2 will be kept as backups for the remaining 12]. She told us that while we were on lunch, she had given the questionnaires that she had us fill out to the attorneys on 6 different cases and the general jury profile from that drove all 6 cases to plea bargain. She called us the perfect jury because we were all responsible, working, middle-class people that were assumed to be intelligent, educated and fair. This is NOT the kind of jury that a defense attorney want’s their client to be in front of. Just by being in sequestration, we were able to cut down on the time & expense of our legal system and get a fair verdict for defendants that were faced with having to take responsibility for their actions. It was a very enlightening conversation and I’m glad the judge came and talked to us.
The next day, we were released from service since the jury pool had a fresh registration that morning. I’m kind of upset that I never actually got to sit on a trial, but in the end, I don’t feel that my time was wasted. It was a good experience and I actually look forward to possibly being selected again and hopefully actually getting the chance to sit on a trial.