Monday, February 12, 2007

Jury Duty: Day 1

I have been asked to do my civic duty and show up for Jury duty at the local Municipal Court this week. I was actually looking forward to it; I've been summoned for Jury duty before while living in CA but my number has never even been called to be one of the lucky few who get asked questions by the prosecuting and defense attorneys. This time it was going to be my local court, and I was hoping I'd see a bit more of the process.

But the first order of the day was - do I even have to show up, and if so when? This seems like it would be an easy question to answer, but in the world of government bureaucracies, this is not the case. My summons had a date (Feb 12) but within the same one-page summons had two different times (8:30 and 9:00). No problem, I can go to the convenient website or call the phone number they've provided, right? The website says, "all jurors are excused for the remains of the January session." Since it's February, that's not extremely helpful for me. So I called the jury hotline after 5pm last night as instructed. It welcomed me to the court and told me that all associates were on other calls but that if I'd called outside of business hours, I should hang up and call back another time. So I figured they just hadn't updated the answering machine and called back again, and again, and again. Finally I called at 11:30pm and the message had been updated. Yay! It said, "all jurors should show up for the January 22nd session at 9am." Hmmm...not so good. So I decided I'd show up this morning at 8:30 just to be sure.

At the courthouse, there were quite a few people milling around. At 8:30 on the dot, we were allowed to go into the courthouse and through the security check, which involved a guard and a metal detector. According to a sign on the outside of the door we were not allowed to bring food or drink into the courthouse. I thought that was strange considering that we were going to be there all day so I asked if I could bring in my water bottle. The guard said yes and had me go through the metal detector, which promptly went off. I took off my belt (somehow much more embarassing in a courthouse than in an airport) and went through again, and it beeped again. The guard said not to worry about it and let me through. Three seconds later, he turned back to me where I was now waiting to enter the courtroom itself and said that he'd "forgotten" but actually I couldn't bring my water bottle in. So I had to exit the building, go back to my car, and put the bottle away, then go back and stand in line. This time when I went back through I just walked through the metal detector and let it beep, and the guard ignored it. I felt quite secure, until I noticed all the people he'd let through holding coffee cups...

But finally, into the courtroom we went, only one person saying, "moo" at the way we were being herded. We got to watch an educational video on our civic duty with definitions of the various people who we'd see today as well as how the process would work. Then the lawyers and judge and defendants entered and we all left, only to come back in again in a new random order for the jury selection process. The lawyers asked all kinds of questions that made it quite clear that the case was about an obstruction of justice at a Ford dealership and I think I probably spoke up enough that they wouldn't have wanted me to serve even if I'd been closer to the front of the line of potential jurors. This went on for about an hour, after which they excused a bunch of people and told us all to call back again tonight to find out whether we should show up tomorrow for another trial.

I can't wait to find out what tomorrow holds in store.

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