UNITED STATES—I’ve been wanting to chat about this for quite some time, however, I wanted to give it a bit of time to digress exactly what transpired. I’m referring to my time doing jury duty. Let me be clear people this is not my first rodeo. I have actually been called for jury duty, let me rephrase that: summoned for jury duty more times that I can count on two hands. It has almost happened every single year since 2005. I have served twice in federal court to the tune of more than 2 weeks each time.
Prayers to the powers that be it was only 2 weeks, because a federal case could go over 6 months if not longer in some situations. Imagine missing work for 6 months, and being paid pennies on a dollar as a result. Not fun people, not fun at all. Then I was called immediately after serving my first stint at the courthouse in 2005, almost 3 months later in local court. Since I just served jury duty, I couldn’t be called again for at least one year.
Point being when you are called for jury duty, you cannot ignore it. If you ignore it not only can you be fined, but you can be held in contempt of court and actually placed in jail. Don’t play around with the government when it comes to jury duty. It is your civic duty and you as an American are tasked to do it. I have been called for jury duty over 15 times, and I have served on 4 juries. Frustrating right? Trust me it is.
However, I want to talk about the waiting game that comes with jury duty. First thing that comes to mind, you have to get to the courthouse early, and I mean early. Like 7 in the morning. Do you have to dress up? I did, they say business attire, but wow, with what I witnessed, as half the individuals were in everyday clothing: blue jeans, hats, hoodies and everything in between.
Then there is that situation of being searched and going thru the metal detector. It almost felt as if I was getting ready to board a flight. Anything in my pockets had to be emptied. My coat had to be taken off, my watch, my belt, and so much more. Not to mention the line to enter the building was NOT only out the door it was wrapped around a corner.
Next, once you go thru the security check, you have to wait in line to enter the jury sitting room where they have to scan your summons. From there, you are expected to fill out some paperwork, as it’s a sign of rather you will get paid or not. After that, you take a seat in a room that is crowded beyond being crowded. I just happened to be called for jury duty at the start of the week which is the worst. Why? Many cases are looking for juries to be set and if you’re called for jury duty early in the week there is a strong chance you’ll be selected for jury duty.
So the only great thing about jury duty on the local level is we were able to have our cell phones. I know when I had jury duty at the federal courthouse no phones were allowed in the building at all. You can have your phone in the jury waiting room and while you wait outside the courtroom, but once you enter it must be off. NO EXCEPTIONS.
So you are waiting in that jury room with over 200 to 300 other people. I had to be waiting for nearly 90 minutes before anything started to transpire. The waiting period has to be the absolute worst when it comes to jury duty. The boredom, the frustration, the fact that you’re thinking about everything else you could be doing if you didn’t have jury duty. Then the individuals who are the head of the jury duty department started to speak about the civic duty of jurors and they play that video explaining the process.
Oh, I hate that video because instead of explaining the process of jury duty they should actually show that film “12 Angry Men” which is riveting and a true testament of what a jury should actually do when it comes to the deliberation stage and process, which we will talk about in a later column. Yes, I have broken up the process in five columns to elaborate extensively on each of them.
After watching that video, a few jokes were made, not garnering many laughs before we were informed if a bailiff enter the room people are about to be selected for a potential jury. Are you nervous? Not really, you’re just telling yourself PLEASE GOD LET THEM PICK ANYONE BUT ME! Guess what, I was the second name called. About 25 of us where called, you might ask why that number, a jury is composed of 12 people and you’re going to have the process of selecting a jury from the attorneys in the case. That process is known as Voir Dire which you’ll learn all about in the following column. Let me just say this was riveting and exciting, and frustrating as hell this go around.