Monday, May 5, 2008

Civic duty isn't so bad

Today, I was showered, dressed, wearing makeup and on my way to jury duty by 7:45.

As I entered the jury room, I was greeted by 60 or so very miserable looking people from all walks of like. Young, old, well dressed, hardly dressed...they all looked at me and scowled. After giving my paperwork to the court officer, I sat next to an older woman and said hello. She looked at me suspiciously. Is it just New England, or does the prospect of being seated on a jury make people everywhere unfriendly?

After sitting in the most uncomfortable chair in the oldest, still operating courthouse in the United Stated for about an hour we watched a video that explained the judicial process. I read my book, because I'd seen the video before, in my 5th grade civics class...

We waited some more. I contemplated how I was going to present myself as a most unattractive juror.

Then the judge came in and began to talk about the difference between "hardship" and "inconvenience". He quoted John Adams and talked about freedom and democracy and the right to a trial by jury. He acknowledged that being there was inconvenient for everyone, but that it's necessary and part of the price for the freedom that we enjoy. Then he said, "We have soldiers in Iraq who are serving this country today. They and their families are facing great, personal hardship. For most of you here today, what I am asking of you is merely an inconvenience. Please keep that in mind"

I stopped trying to figure out how I was going to talk my way out of being selected.

We were brought into the court room and sworn in. We were told that the case before the court involved a breach of contract related to a real estate transaction. Hmmm...not exactly ripped from the headlines... The trial would likely not end until Friday.

A week? Although nothing like serving in the military, a week of jury duty with two kids under four, would be really hard. I listened closely to the questions that were asked. An affirmative answer to any of them, could get me dismissed. "Do you work in the real estate industry?" Hmmm...I wonder if it counts if you are married to a real estate attorney and broker? "Have you ever been involved in an unusual real estate transaction?" Define unusual? Pretty sure the fact that I own a condo in a building that has been involved in litigation because of mold issues will count as a yes....

I was number 55. Six of the first fifteen people were seated. I didn't think that they would get to me. I heard a few women tell the judge that they had child care issues and he let them go. Then sixteen people in a row were dismissed. As my number got closer and the pool of potential jurors got smaller, I noticed that childcare issues were no longer getting people sent home. I started practicing what I was going to say, how I would ensure that I sounded a little biased. How I would ensure that my poor mother in law did not have to watch my kids for a week.

When my name was called, I approached the bench and smiled.

"How are you today?"

"I'm well your honor. How are you?"

"I see that you have an 18 month old at home. Is childcare going to be a problem for you?"

"They're both with my 80 year old in laws (sorry mom, I know you are not quite 80, but dad is...)"

"Are your in laws spry and very youthful?"

"Yes, actually. They're great."

"Are you concerned?"

"Honestly? One day is fine, I could even do two. But an entire week? Well, that would be hard."

"Okay, I'm going to dismiss you. Thank you for your willingness to serve."

No lies. No exaggerations. Just like that. I did my civic duty.


Monica said...

Not bad, I'd say. I'm glad that the judge saw fit to have mercy on your parents:)

Janel said...

Oh, yeah - having little kids really does help get out of this.
It happened to me too!!!