My Civic Duty


4950965.gifWell, I survived another round of jury duty. I’ve yet to serve on an actual panel, I never seem to make it past voir dire. Evidently, some people don’t like it when I speak the truth!

Anyway, it occurred to me that there are several things that would make the experience a lot more pleasant. For instance:

  • Does it HAVE to start at 8:15 a.m.? Can’t you have some pity for night creatures? Why don’t we have night court here? I know, I know, while were sitting in the cramped, too-close-together desks, official stuff is going on behind the scenes. Logic tells me that. But still….
  • While we’re talking cramped seating, what the heck is up with that? And it’s not just because I’m big that it was a tight space. Slender people were crunched into the chairs as well. There were only three round tables with chairs available, the rest were little school-type desks. And a bunch of good old boys that looked like a retired man’s coffee club beat everyone to them. (Here’s a tip within a tip–roll out of bed earlier to make sure you get your choice of seats. You may not beat the coffee boys, but at least you won’t be left with the whole ‘excuse me’ thing as you shuffle through the packed rows of bleary-eyed folks to the empty seat in the middle that no one else wanted.) In spite of myself, I watched both of the little videos they showed, and I noticed that the example of a jury room they showed had cafeteria tables and chairs all through the room for the potential jurists, and PLENTY of room to breathe. Now there’s an idea!
  • Speaking of breathing, as we entered the jury room, we ran into a wall of stuffy, overly-warm air. **GASP** This didn’t do a lot to either wake us up or cheer us up. Do they really want cranky, sleepy citizens on their juries? Turn up the air, PUH–LEASE.
  • Going along with the dead air thing, maybe it’s a good idea to double-check the whole hygiene thing. Shower–check. Brush your teeth–check. Deodorant–check-check. Put on perfume–ch–Oh. Maybe we should tone down the perfume thing. Close quarters, everyone’s scents mixing with everyone else’s…a recipe for a headache. Watch the hair-grooming. Don’t forget, hair-flippers, when you toss that hair back to clip it into a mass of curls on top of your head, it might just be long enough to put out the eye of the person behind you. And did you know, cigarette smoke clings to hair like tar on feathers?
  • Avoidable irritants. It occurred to me as I was eating my crackers that the crunch might be bothering the girl next to me. Ooops. I could perfectly understand, as the lady behind me was popping her knuckles. One. By. One. S-l-o-w-l-y. As the guy with the booming voice walked by talking business on his cellphone.
  • In spite of the cranky tone of my list of suggestions, I swallowed my grumpiness and remained civil to my neighbors (well, except for the lawyer who shoved his way through the line as we waited to be checked in. I mentioned an ‘excuse me’ couldn’t have hurt.) So maybe we should remember that we’re all in the same boat, and snapping at our neighbors isn’t going to get us out of there any faster. In fact, the lady next to me was really nice, and the short conversation I had with her was very pleasant. Finally, we were able to share a sigh of relief when our names weren’t called for the panels, and were both eager to get outside for some cooler, fresher air.
  • Too bad when we got outside the doors, we were hit with a large cloud of smoke. I’ve never understood why people have to smoke right outside the doors of a public place. There was absolutely no place clear to pass where we didn’t have to go through it. I guess it’s revenge for not being allowed to smoke inside. My Daddy was a smoker, but he used manners. I guess like everything else where courtesy is required, there has been a general downside in our culture.

It sounds like I wouldn’t enjoy being on a jury. I think I would, once I got there. It’s all the getting around to it that bugs me. I don’t like waiting 15 million hours to get into the Dr.’s office either. But jury duty is an important part of the community, no matter how much we gripe about it.
Seriously, here are some tips to get you through your civic duty as painlessly as possible:

  • Fill out your summons and send it back as soon as you get it. Put the badge in a safe place, but not so safe you won’t remember where you put it!
  • Mark your calendar so you won’t forget the day you are to serve, and inform your employers/clients of the impending possibility of service.
  • The night before, resist the temptation to catch up on your TiVo or finish that incredible novel/new magazine. Take a relaxing bath and turn in early.
  • Do dress comfortably but neatly. Think “business casual.” You’ll feel better about yourself when you finally wake up than you would if you had to spend the day wondering why the heck you left the house without looking in the mirror. And chances are, you won’t have what you need in your bag to make yourself presentable. (Men have it so easy. So if you are a guy reading this, take a shower, comb your hair, and for pity’s sake, brush your teeth.) Think of it this way– when we’re at our best, we can walk into the unknown more confidently. Think of it as a way to take as much control of the situation as you can.
  • I wasn’t kidding about getting an early start. You’ll need time to find a place to park and make it through any security processes that might be in place. Oh, and you WILL want to get there early enough so you won’t have to stand in the check-in line as long. And so you can claim the seat of your choice. If you are going to have to settle in and wait, it’s important to be as comfortable as you can.
  • On the way out the door, don’t forget to grab that incredible novel, a pad and pen, and change for the vending machines.
  • After you do park it, you might as well resign yourself to the inevitable wait. There’s nothing to be done about it. If you try to skip it without a legitimate reason, you’ll only have to come back again at a later date. Remember, if by some upside-down quirk of fate you ever need a jury, you want someone there that is willing to do the job in spite of the inconvenience. So remind yourself to keep an open mind.
  • Take advantage of the breaks they give you. You’ll want to stretch your legs and refresh yourself. You don’t know the next time you’ll have the opportunity to visit the restroom.
  • If you make it to voir dire, don’t sweat it. It might feel awkward to be put on the spot when an attorney asks you a question, but listen closely and answer as honestly as possible. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand what they are asking you. You aren’t the one on trial here. But you could get in trouble if you aren’t honest. The defendant will most likely be in the room, but don’t let that rattle you either. If it makes you uncomfortable, just avoid eye contact with the person in question.

And I’m afraid that’s all the advice I can give you. I haven’t made it any further in the process, and so my experience there is limited to hearsay and what I’ve seen on TV. I somehow doubt I can take that as an example in the day to day workings of a real courtroom.

Do you have any tips for serving on a jury? What do you wish you’d known before you had to serve your first time?

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9 Comments on “My Civic Duty”

  1. Gabrielle says:

    Nope, never been asked to serve. And after reading your experience, I’m glad!

  2. Squirrel says:

    My husband was sent a questionaire a month ago but he’s not heard back. I have never been summond before. These sound like good advise!

  3. Ms. Karen says:

    Ooh, good post!

    I’ve served on two juries and I hated it. Ok, parts of it were pretty cool, like being able to sit and write, and all the inspriation that flows in and out of the courthouse (who ARE those people and why are they here?).

    The last panel I served on was the strangest. The defendant represented himself because he couldn’t find anyone suitable enough to be his attorney. He actually asked everyone if any of us thought he was guilty (this was during voir dire) and I RAISED MY HAND. I said, “Well, you had to have done something to get in here.” He said, “hm, good point.”

    I still found him guilty after the TWO WEEKS of listening to him blather on about his sexual prowess… uggers, what a nasty thug.

    Our courthouses have decent seating, but if it ever came to the point where I had to sit for hours in a school desk kind of seat, I’d be asking the person in charge to please find me a better seat. Sometimes they can be nice.

    Also, if you can afford it, and they let you out early, don’t go right back to work. Give yourself a day off and enjoy something that doesn’t involve uncomfortable seats and close quarters with stinky people.

    You know, I’m probably due for another summons soon. *sigh*

  4. desperatewriter says:

    That sounds interesting, Ms. Karen! Hope I didn’t jinx ya with the topic!

    That’s one subject I didn’t touch on…being self-employed, I really sweat it if I have to take of work for long periods of time. But at least if you serve more than one day, they’ve raised the jury pay to a level that would compensate for it a little, if you serve more than one day!

  5. dink says:

    I’m summoned often but haven’t ever served. We call the courthouse the night before to see if the case is still going forward –mostly, they’ve settled. I’ve been through voir dire twice–once they got their jury without my jury number coming up and once I went through the voir dire process and was excused.

    I’m fascinated by how different my experience is from yours. The whole process takes place in the courthouse here (no desks and no crowding).

    I live in a very small town –maybe that’s why.

    Interesting post! 🙂

  6. Keely says:

    You’ve been tagged!

    I wrote EIGHT RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME, and now I’d like to read about you. To get instructions, go to my blog at http://keelysfaerygoodadvice.blogspot.com.

    It’s fun! I’ll be curious to know who you tag. 🙂

    TTFN,
    Keely

  7. sherry says:

    They never summons me. Ever. Nor my husband either.

    Is it because we have no TV and they feel we are uninformed?

    Is it because they’ve read my blog and think I have no brain?

    Is it because we only exist in your imagination?


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