Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday Tirade: Do Your Duty!

Civic Duty

It's an orphaned ideal in our cynical and paranoid nation.

I'm pretty sure my fondness for the concept stems from some combination of being an LA Law fan back in the day plus reading too many legal thrillers in my twenties with an added dash of the last remnants of my freshman (HS) ambition to be a lawyer.

Curious? I'm talking about that dread bit paper (no, not a speeding ticket; I've gotten much better at not getting caught) -- the jury summons.

Jury Duty by Krin

Jury duty is a PITA.
  • It's time consuming. I've been called three times since I was 18. The very first time I was called I served on the jury --  Lawyers: beware 18yo jurors fresh from the AP English ritual that is Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men! The trial was supposed to run 3 days from the first day. It ran 3 1/2 and my boss at the time actually called the courtroom looking for me midday on the 4th day. He didn't believe I was really doing my jury duty! The second and third times I was called  I did not serve on a jury. BUT, I was downtown at the courthouse the day of my summons for over 12 hours the first time due to lengthy voir dire, and almost 12 hours the second time because of... Well, I can't remember the reason now; I just remember making a lot of panicked calls to the person watching my 7yo daughter and a lot of apologizing for not picking up my kid already.
  • It's expensive. Gas for the drive into town. Parking fees for a garage or meter. Potential additional childcare expenses. Oh, and that pesky matter of losing your real paycheck and subbing it with $7/day juror fees. That's less than the hourly minimum wage. Take my 12 hour day as an example. Instead of the $11/hour I was making at the time, I made $0.58/hour. If you add in gas, parking, and a meal in the courthouse cafeteria because nothing else was in walking distance, I probably spent $25 that day. PLUS my lost pay. Ouch!
  • It's a logistical nightmare. I live and work in the suburbs, and, if I'm honest, Austin is still small town enough that driving down to the courthouse isn't near the logistical nightmare it was when I lived in Katy and had to drive into downtown Houston for jury duty--and of course that was the one where I was on the jury. Still, for most people trekking down to the courthouse is a pain. Finding parking is a nightmare, and constantly having to beg a guard to let you run out and feed your meter? ZOMG. And that assumes you don't have kids. Most single parents are recused in order to care for their children, but two parent households often have complex schedules due to extracurricular activities. Take one car & driver off the schedule and chaos ensues.
  • It's boring. This is speaking as someone who has been called three times, went all three times, and endured three voir dires. The majority of stuff people go to court for is paint-peelingly dull. And that's the actual trial. The lead up is even worse with a ton of hurry-up-and-wait.
And those are just the things off the top of my head.

So What?!

Yes, it's a pain.

It's also an honor and a duty. 

My father has told me more than once over the years that if he ever found himself in a situation where a jury might be needed he would waive the right to a jury in exchange for summary judgment. Why?
 "Because it will not be a jury of my peers. It will be a jury of people too stupid to get out of jury duty and those are damned sure not the people I want passing judgment on me!"
In a way he's right. For example, since single parents are often recused, how often does a single parent on trial, whose motives for their actions may be tied strongly to the realities of single parenthood, actually get a jury of their peers? I'm betting not often.

I think I am the only person I know who never tries to get out of jury duty. I think it's too important to blow off. The right to a trial by jury is a right we take for granted in this country that a large portion of the global population does not enjoy. As such, I feel it is my job, as a responsible citizen of the country I am glad to live in (crazy conservatives and all), to be a part of the process.

How about you? If you think jury duty is a waste of time, at least entertain me by telling me what excuse(s) you've used to get out of jury duty.


Candy said...

I've been called twice. Both times I was nursing a baby so I just called in and they let me out of it. It is boring and as the main caretaker of the kids after school, it IS a pain. I'd go if called, but I wouldn't like it. I'm not a big believer in the court system to be honest.

::laineypoz:: said...

I don't know if it's a PITA. I've never been called. Not "never been picked". Never. Been. Called. I used to think I was tempting fate by saying that out loud, but I've been registered to vote for damn near 25 years and the fates just don't give a flying fandango. Apparently.

Dynila said...

Heh. This post was in response to how annoyed the hubs was to get his first ever jury duty summons. He didn't even have to go to the courthouse.

Last week I got my FOURTH. Yep. I think someone at the courthouse put a tickmark by name on the jury pool roll, "This one always shows up. Wahoo!"