Friday, March 6, 2015

Fulfilling a Civic Responsibility – Jury Duty

I spent three days this week at the county courthouse fulfilling my civic duty. I was one of eight chosen to serve on a jury in a civil case.

Called a couple of years ago, I spent half a day waiting for something to happen, only to be discharged at lunchtime.

This time I got beyond the jury assembly room.

The process of choosing a jury began at 9:30 my second morning of service and concluded at 1:30 p.m. Over 50 men and women quietly filed into a real courtroom. The judge, two lawyers, the plaintiff and defendant, and about half a dozen security personnel and court clerks awaited our arrival.

Two people remained in the gallery when the judge finally announced, “We have our jury.” After answering a series of questions, the judge or one of the lawyers dismissed most of the prospective jurors. No lunch break – the judge wanted to complete jury selection and recess for the day.

The trial began the next day. Following the lawyers’ opening statements, the testimony of three witnesses, two short breaks and a one-hour lunch recess (not in that order), the trial adjourned for the day. Court was canceled Thursday due to snow and does not convene on Fridays.

Friday morning I received a call from the courthouse. The case settled.

My civic responsibility unceremoniously concluded. I do not have to serve again for three years.

Following years watching law-related TV shows from Perry Mason to Law and Order and The Good Wife, experiencing a real trial proved fascinating. It is also a plus NOT to encounter the process first-hand as either a plaintiff or defendant, but as an objective observer.

My three days of jury duty was noteworthy for a number of reasons.

I got to wear nice clothes that have been hanging in my closet, rarely worn since retiring; warm socks, sweats and comfy sweatshirt my usual winter attire (especially this cold winter).

…and new dress boots bought this summer (on sale, of course) and worn previously only a couple of times – until jury duty beckoned. My court outfit consisted of black jeans, a shirt or sweater and a blazer.

I met a group of interesting people, getting to know my fellow jurors. I will probably never see any of them again.

I earned some money – $5 a day (not a typo) for the first two days of service and $40 the third day. A substantial raise!

My vocabulary expanded. I will most likely forget the legal jargon quickly, but the concepts may remain in my head, building knowledge in an area that may someday prove useful, for instance at a cocktail party or during a trivia game.

I enjoyed a couple of delicious restaurant meals with hub. Working long hours, listening intently to proceedings, watching videos (the judge warning jurors not to fall asleep while the lights were out), and sitting silently, resulted in mental exhaustion with limited time or energy for mundane tasks such as food preparation.

I missed my weekday activities, and my body already suffers from a lack of exercise. But I had looked forward to returning next week for the completion of the trial. I do not like to leave things undone. And would like to know the particulars of the settlement.

Did the woman suing receive what she considered adequate compensation for her injuries?

Did the company prevail and refuse to pay anything?

Was there a compromise reluctantly accepted by both sides?

Will I miss my $40/day earned income?

Will I get to wear my dress boots again this winter?

Should I retire my blazers for the season and bring them to the cleaner?

Is hub willing to go out to dinner now that I no longer have an excuse NOT to cook?

Will I ever be called to serve again? I look forward to a criminal case, preferably a winter trial. I have the clothes to wear.

Seriously, I am glad for the opportunity to serve and experience an actual trial.