Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jury Duty, Part 1

The trial's over so now I can talk about it (and "sell my story to People" --  the judge's  words). I served for three days and I'm dying to share. First of all, the judge was awesome. During panel (which is when the jury is selected from a pool of 30 or so random people), he quoted from To Kill a Mockingbird. I know, right? It was beyond cool. At the end he quoted from Milton, but I'll get to that later. He was kick ass.

For those who don't know, this is how the jury process works in California. It's probably similar in most states. I get summoned every year like clockwork. In the early 2000s this meant you had to go downtown to the Superior Courthouse on Hill Street, Temple Street or Grand for three days and basically sit in the jury assembly room until you were selected for a trial. It's slow and tedious and sometimes you look at the people around you, many of whom are coughing, snorting, mumbling, or SLEEPING, and you think, "God help me if I'm sued, if these are my peers." Other times you meet cool people and share a laugh. Some are dressed in business attire, some are in sweatpants. Sometimes they play a cheesy inspirational video with American flags waving and B-list actors extolling the virtues of civic duty. Sometimes there are catalogs to read, or a TV playing annoying talk shows in the back.

There are a million roll calls and instructions on how to fill out your summons (which actually you're supposed to have done long before you arrive, and it's not difficult to do, but somehow this takes an hour). There are more roll calls. People who've scurried off to the bathroom return to a room of anger. People who are too quiet have to repeat "Here" several times, until the people around them take up the cause and scream it. There are 15 minute breaks every hour and a half, and then an actual hour and a half for lunch, from noon to 1:30. The day is over at 4:30 or 5.

Eventually your name is called or it's not. If it's not, you go home for the day and report back tomorrow. Repeat, repeat. If your name is never called, and the three days are up, you have served and you get a slip stating this so you can give it to your employer and prove you were weren't at the movies all day.

Luckily, they've changed that system to a call-in version, so now you're on call for a week. You ring up the Serve Jury line every evening from Sunday to Thursday to find out if you need to report the next morning. Get this: I was not needed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On the last day I call in, expecting it to be over, and suddenly things are moving -- and I've been assigned to a different courthouse! I was supposed to be summoned to Hollywood, but now they need me in downtown L.A. on Friday morning at 7:30 a.m. The automated phone message rapidly spits out the new address, how to get there, where to park, what to bring, etc, and my mind is reeling from the fact that I actually have to go in. I frantically jot everything down, cursing the fact that I was SO CLOSE to getting out of it for another year.

Friday morning I get up at 6 (which is the equivalent of 3 a.m. to me), out the door by 6:30, and it's raining but I've left my umbrella in the car, and I get there on time but the doors are locked, and we go through security and sit down in the assembly room. Same old, same old, except this time the woman in charge has a sense of humor and we're all sort of punch drunk laughing with her and her dry wit. 

A 30-day trial is announced. Gasps of horror. We are reminded that "I don't want to" is not a valid reason to be excused. I'm not called.

A 16-day trial is announced. Gasps of horror, but not as many, as the room is now half full. I'm not called.

A 3-day trial is announced. A few grumbles, although I don't know why; it's better than the alternatives. I'm called.

I am Juror Number Six.


Tomorrow: Panel, and the crazy woman who doesn't think tenants should be penalized if they haven't paid rent in 6-8 months.

1 comment:

  1. Ooo, aren't you glad you didn't get the 30 day trial! Can't wait to read about your experience.