Jury Duty

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Some weeks back, Colin received the summons in the mail: Jury Duty. He placed the paper aside and hoped he would be able to avoid having to appear in person.

That’s the luxury you now get to enjoy because they’ve changed the system since when I was called back in 2001 in Seattle. I had to physically report every day at the courthouse and wait around for them to decide if I would actually be needed for jury selection. Three days I waited with nothing to do but read Better Homes and Gardens. I did end up serving on a trial but it was only one day. Aggravated assault on a security guard. I can’t even remember what the verdict was. Some juror I made.

Nowadays, they seem to be more efficient. Now you’re just “on call” during your week of service. Colin had to phone in the night before to see if he would have to go to the courthouse. Sunday night he was given the all clear for Monday. Monday night, he wasn’t so lucky. He would have to go downtown Tuesday morning.

(The pictures above are some that Colin took of the Santa Barbara courthouse, mostly of the mural room that he says is still in use but they primarily keep clear for the tourists to view. Really amazing architecture and artistry.)

If you have never had the experience of jury selection let me tell you, it’s quite interesting. There are some real characters that come out of the woodwork. Even the judges seem amused by the comments potential jurors make while being questioned.

Colin reported that many people got out of jury duty because of planned vacations, so if you’re looking to avoid being selected for a trial make sure you schedule a trip for about 2-3 weeks after your week of service.

Although it’s extremely interesting to be on a jury, and though Colin hinted that he wouldn’t mind serving on one if his job weren’t so hectic at the moment, he was grateful that he was not chosen for this particular case. It would have been long and messy. It was a murder trial expected to last no less than three weeks. He was fortunate that the jury was selected before his number was even called.

And our whole family was grateful he wasn’t selected either. We only have one car. Colin rides his bike to work every day, which frees us from commuting with him. But the courthouse is 20 minutes away by car, and the bus system is not like Chicago’s, so he would have needed a lift to and from the building every day. It was hard enough the few days during the selection process. All the kids loaded up in the car, circling around during rush hour waiting for him to emerge from the court room because there was no where to park was the exact opposite of fun. I can’t imagine what three weeks would do to our schedule.

We’re supposed to have this sense of pride in serving in this capacity. It’s our civic duty to participate in the cause of justice, right? Then why does it only feel like an imposition on our already busy lives? Maybe one day we’ll be able to appreciate this wise component of our legal system. Until then, we’ll just be grateful that Colin slid under the radar on this one.

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Have you ever served on a jury? Or how have you avoided it?

3 thoughts on “Jury Duty”

  1. I received my first call to jury duty just days after I turned 18! They must have been waiting with bated breath! Coming from a family full of police officers I thought for sure I would get out of it. Nope I served. It was a drug case, after 2 days of testimony we found him guilty and sent him to jail.

    Since that time I have not had to serve as I was either a high risk pregnancy or had children under 10 that I was primary caregiver for.

    I would serve again happily most of the time. The process is interesting and vital, however some times I know my life is too busy.

  2. I have always wanted to serve on a jury and I finally got called when we lived in Houston. Like 2 weeks before we moved to California. So sadly, I just waited until we were in Santa Barbara and then reported that I no longer lived in Texas.

    Until my next summons, I’ll just keep reading Grisham novels.

  3. My hubby REALLY wants to do jury duty because he thinks it would be fascinating, but he is never chosen because he is a lawyer. I’m with you. I’m pretty happy to squeak out of it.

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