Monday, February 27, 2012

Wait! That's It?

This morning began my week of jury duty. Yesterday evening I began my preparations: making sure my jury summons was in my purse and my pocket knife was out, setting my alarm fifteen minutes earlier, and laying out an outfit that was comfortable but polished. My dark taupe chinos, white cashmere pullover, and denim jacket with a dragonfly brooch pinned to the lapel were supposed to indicate sufficient respect for the court while not irritating me all day long. 

When I arrived at the door, I ran into problems. I had to remove my belt, jewelry, and everything in my pockets and put them in a small box to be scanned along with my purse. I managed to set off alarms anyway and had to be hand scanned. Since I was wearing my raincoat on top of everything else, I had forgotten the brooch on my lapel, but more importantly, I realized two hours later, I had forgotten the ten metal buttons on the cuffs, pockets, and placket of the jacket itself. I made a mental note about tomorrow’s outfit: no belt, blazer with plastic buttons, keep my rings and watch in my purse until I go through security. 

The last time I had jury duty, it was in the old courthouse. The new courthouse opened in 2010. It has a first floor area called the Jury Management Office, with a reception area, a large Jury Assembly Room and a smaller room called the quiet room next door. A few hundred of us gathered in the Jury Assembly Room for orientation. The first order of business was a welcome from Judge Fields. The next order of business was a review of what qualifications were necessary to be a juror. One prospect who had not resided in the parish for a full year was excused. So were several full-time students and one person over the age of 70 who did not want to remain, although two other 70-somethings elected to stay. The next group to be dismissed were convicted felons, persons under indictment, persons with physical or mental impairments that would affect their ability to serve, and people with hardships. They were all called up at once so the rest of the group would not know which people fell in which group. That didn’t stop me from playing “guess the felon” with the man in the next seat. Four or five people got sent back to sit with the rest of us, so I guess their hardships didn’t pass muster.

Courthouse under construction in 2009

Rendering of the courthouse from 2009

After getting our parking tickets validated, we got to watch an educational video about jury service. Before showing it to us the jury coordinator told us that the video made reference to being able to wait in the public library, but they don’t allow jurors to do that anymore. According to her, a homeless woman who hangs out in the library had spent so much time watching the coordinator talk to jurors that one day she was able to convince all of them they were being sent home.  

I love that story. I don’t know if I believe that story, but I love that story.

Once the orientation was done, we still had about an hour before lunch. A movie was being shown in the main room, so I escaped to the quiet room with my Kindle. Around 11:45 we were called back to the main room.

“If I call your name, you may leave for lunch and return at 1:15,” the coordinator announced. She called several dozen names, none of which were mine. I hoped the next group wasn’t going to have to wait until 1:15 for our turn at lunch.

The next group, it turned out, was being thanked for their service and sent home for good. I listened as the coordinator reeled off a list of names, none of which was mine. Then I heard my first name, for the first time that day. When she started spelling my last name*, I realized that was it. I was done for the week. I was done for the next two years, actually, because one thing made clear in orientation was that no matter how short your service, if you got a summons and showed up, that counted just as much as serving the whole week.

So my week of jury service that was going to provide several blog posts is over, just like that. The thanks of a grateful nation, well, grateful city-parish, are mine, along with a promised twelve dollars plus mileage. “Must be nice,” said my husband, who had to stick it out for a whole two and a half days.

I don’t know. I’ve been called for jury duty three times and have yet to serve on a jury. I was looking forward to it, largely because I would not be allowed to listen to my husband discuss the local news for a whole week. 

Maybe it’s the way I was dressed?

*Nobody knows how to pronounce my last name. No two people in my family say it alike.

1 comment:

  1. I've been for jury duty 3 or 4 times and never made it past the first room, never even SAW a judge. Maybe it's my aura?
    Thank goodness we never had to watch films.