Ah, jury duty. It’s been a decade or so, but before that they called me up every other Wednesday, seemed like. The first few times I was called, the service was for two weeks. That was back when people had careers and maybe were represented by unions and in general the jury duty was an inconvenience or a slight financial hit. These days people’s expectations of scraping together food and shelter are much reduced, a condition referred to on the right as “freedom.” You ask half the prospective juror pool to sit for two weeks, you’re going to run into some attrition in the form of starvation deaths and homicide.
So we are now asked to show up for two days. And that should do it, unless you get called to sit on a trial that lasts longer than that. Which, naturally, is what happened to me.
I’m a union girl and I’m getting my pension either way, so I’m not out any cash. Still, I thought a nice boutique trial of a day or so would be just the ticket, a possible blog post, and an opportunity to dish out a tidbit of justice. More than two days, I felt, was asking a lot of an old lady with a novel to write. Who likes to sleep in.
Our trial was going to go nearly two weeks, so they called up 40 jurors with the hope of sieving out 13. Would this trial present a hardship to anyone? 40 hands shot up and waved like a wheat field. I made an effort but it was clear I was not getting out of this.
An amazing percentage of people, as it turns out, could be described as living paycheck to paycheck, if only they got paychecks. As the hardship stories rolled toward the back of the room, we met folks who were liable to lose two or three of the minimum-wage jobs they were splicing together between food stamp allotments. Or who were going to be out forty big ones if they miss their next plasma donation. Or who were at risk of losing their favorite spot on a warm street grate. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s getting medieval out there.
Then there were the medical hardships. Front row, a juror’s hip screws were liable to pop out if she had to sit in a juror chair for too many hours in a row. Juror #21 couldn’t guarantee he wouldn’t bust out howling after three or four days. Juror #28 is the sole caregiver for her mother, who might start to wander if she isn’t locked in her bedroom, and the fire department had words with her about that the last time. Third row back, grandpa eats wallpaper if left unsupervised. Fourth row: there’s a basket of puppies attached to an explosive device that will detonate if the juror’s ankle monitor doesn’t register inside his house at least once every four hours.
The judge worked the room. Was Juror #32 aware that sperm donations pay better than plasma? Could Mother benefit from a support hamster? Might it be possible to paint over the wallpaper? What kind of puppies? Don’t explosive devices have a less than even chance of going off, on average?
Eventually thirteen of us pulled the short straws and filed in to the jury box. We looked either sullen or sober, depending on your viewpoint. We were sworn in. We, by gum, were set to drop a load of justice on the county. A bigger load than we’d hoped to, but still.
I'm an attorney, and this really hits home. I don't know whether attorneys really give this the thought they should.
Litigators – and I'm not a litigator – say that you end up with a jury of leftovers. Basically, if people don't speak up about anything, they're likely to end up on the jury. I think there's a sense that you don't want unwilling people on your jury, but the real hardship behind it doesn't always hit home.
Especially about the puppies.
This is sort of classic. I really liked this a lot.
You might be pleased to know that the judge gave a pass to only about three of the forty, and the rest did the voir dire, and most of us on the jury had tried out a hardship or two…
Oh wait a minute. I re-read your comment–I'd taken it the wrong way. You're probably NOT pleased to know…
I have never been called to jury duty. I think it is odd how some people are summoned time and again and others are not. I am not complaining.
It's an interesting experience that I would recommend to anyone who can afford it.
I've been summoned quite a while back a few times, but never picked. My husband, on the other hand, seems to get summoned but not picked every couple years. We both have driver's licenses and we both vote, but somehow he gets the "invitation" more frequently.
Back when I was pulling jury duty, I used to dye my hair black, so I just Gothed up my appearance a tad. Oddly, I was not picked for a jury by either side's lawyers. 😉 My devious scheme worked!
I think I've been called about five times and gotten on about eight juries. I hardly ever miss! What is it about me?
You look too normal, I guess. No one wanted the ScaryMiddle-AgedGothLady. YOU they want. My husband always gets the pass, I guess, because of his long, luxuriant hair. I always tell him on these occasions, "Be sure NOT to tie it back!"
But I'm so OPINIONATED! Yeah, not really. Not when it comes to Justice.
"Not when it comes to Justice". I can't seem to picture you responding with, "Yeah, whatever…" when in the deliberating room with the other jurors!
It actually took getting in there to really sort out what I thought about the case. Very confusing.
I was summoned once and although I was willing to serve was not picked when they found out I worked in the Public School system at that time…at least they let me go after mentioning that.
That wouldn't've gotten you off this jury!
I've been summoned many times, every 18 months or so. But I never even get as far as voir/dire. So I take reading and settle in for the day, and then I'm sent home. I have the time and the interest, but never have been on a jury. Retired teacher-is that the reason?
Jeez, they wouldn't know that if you hadn't gotten as far as voir dire!
Yes they would. The first time I was called, I had to fill out information and each time after that, they would ask if I was still a ret. teacher. They know all…
Oh you're right…I wonder why teachers aren't desirable jurors though?
I was summoned once back in the mid 80s and served 3 days. I didn't mind the $15 a day compensation as it was just a tad less than I was making at work. We found the defendant innocent of all charges.
Unfortunately, you are very correct in your analysis of modern hardship issues. Our peers are barely getting by anymore.
I have my moments, especially walking downtown, when I can think of nothing other than some 16th-century English town. Any minute someone's going to dump their night soil out the window on me.
I have never been called.
Way too many people the world over live pay cheque to pay cheque. And they are the lucky ones.
There is no reason any working soul should be in this situation. Do you all have a minimum wage? Ours wouldn't buy you a decent tent and spare socks.
We do. And it is better than yours. In addition our jurors are paid the difference between the jury duty pay and their own salary for a trial which lasts up to ten days. Longer and they receive jury duty pay (which I believe is around $100 a day).
I haven't been to Australia but when I was in NZ almost everyone refused our tips because, they were quick to point out, they made enough money.
I am not eligible for jury duty, nor can I sit the Justice of the Peace exam as I am not an Australian citizen. I am, however, eligible to vote and, indeed, would be fined if I had not registered on the Electoral Roll.One day, someone up on that Hill in Washington is going to realise what a truckload of loot they could snatch if they made voting compulsory…And, by the way, I am still entitled to vote in my home country's elections.
The problem with that is that they DON'T want everyone voting because then they won't get elected and be able to go for the BIG loot. They now go to great efforts to suppress the vote so they can continue to rake it in.
Not so much "time for a new broom" as a ruddy great battalion of water canon?
I got called back in the dav it was a month and you called the night before if your # was up. To now where you get called, come in for one day, if you're not called on that day or excused… you're done. My big surprise was getting called up for grand jury. I actually had no legitimate excuse not to serve. So I did and for the month we listened to lots of testimony. I have to say it ended up being a really good experience with all of us crew of strangers… Jerry has only been called once.
Maybe it's just Multnomah County and not the whole state, but it went from one month to two weeks to two days to one day, and now is back to two.
I was called once and received a call from the court asking that I be sure to come as it was a domestic violence case. (That call didn’t seem right) I did arrive to find that the victim of said abuse had left town. I would like to serve now that I am retired. It might could show me who my “peers” are.
That seems like a rather personal, pointed phone call! Do they also call and say "take your time, it's only a dime store robbery?"
Felt like they were trying to stack the deck.
My wife was called up for a case we think of as Young Dimwit v. McDonalds Corp. It seems the Young Dimwit got sick after finishing a half-eaten cheeseburger he had stored unrefrigerated under his bed for several days. As much as she hated giving the victory to the evil-looking corporate suits, she decided even McDonalds Corp. deserved justice.
You make a mighty fine-looking Lady Justice, by the way. The sunglasses as a good 21st century stand-in for a blindfold, and the sword, I assume, is a prop from a pirate costume?
Mighty fine-looking because I borrowed that from a real early blog post, so I think I was still in my fifties! The sword is a Civil War sword (Confederate) that my great-grandfather (Union) picked up off the battlefield.
The one and only time I was ever called for jury duty, I was dismissed after they found out I was a stay-at-home mom with an accountant husband. I was only too happy to go home, as I had no idea how I was going to get child care for the two weeks set aside for the trial!
Most people really have trouble with this. It's never been a hardship for me. Except this time. Getting up before 8:30? Inhumane.
Oh oh! Just got my jury summons a few days ago. Will have to be available for the entire month of April. Only have had about one hour of service in the past. There was a settlement before jury selection could even start so we were dismissed. And, there were no other trials scheduled that month.
Yes, we are “on call” for a whole month. We call in daily to see if we need to show up the next day. It isn’t really that crazy. They know ahead of time if they have trials scheduled so we have a pretty good idea at the beginning of the month just how things might go. But there could be several trials during any particular month. This is for District Court in Iowa.
Oh that's not quite so bad then.
I have never in my life been called for jury duty and I hope I never will. I'm incapable of deciding what to eat for breakfast, never mind deciding the future fate of another person.
I solve that by always eating the same thing for breakfast (oatmeal) and deciding the same fate (three years in the pokey plus time served).
I got called in several times and served on one jury, for a DUI case. Pretty sure the defendant was drunk in court so it was a pretty easy conviction. Now that I live in Canada, I haven't been called for any jury duty. It'd be nice to see the difference. I'll bet they say "thank you" or "merci" a lot.
We have been elaborately thanked and cared for by the judge. He's remarkable.
I bet it was scary being on the El Chapo jury.
I served on a jury years ago where we found the defendant guilty of prostitution. After reaching our verdict, one of our jurors admitted he had seen the defendant previously on a street corner soliciting. Would have been a mistrial but no one had it in 'em to tell the judge. If it happened today, I'd definitely rat him out!
Spot on Murr! Especially the therapy hamster! I couldn’t get out of it even knowing some of the witnesses!
BTW- I don’t appreciate being referred to as ‘the spare’.😉
To be fair, we didn't know you were the spare until the very end.
OMG, a basket of puppies! SO funny. All the excuses made me laugh.