Posted on March 15, 2014
Two years ago I received a very official looking letter in the mail. My initial thought it was a clever marketing campaign by another struggling carpet cleaning company. Upon closer scrutiny (and before it hit the recycling bin), I realized it was not a marketing gimmick but in fact, a government issued envelope. Of course my mind began to catastrophize. Did I run a red light? Did I enter the carpool land as a single occupant? Did I actually strangle my husband? Did I did I did I? My heart raced as I tore open the envelope. It was then I understood I had been called to fulfill my civic duty; I was officially summoned to jury duty.
Relief ensued just prior to coping an attitude of inconvenience. The court however; did not agree with my definition of hardship. Seems as though Tuesday’s lunchtime massage would have to be rescheduled. The simple truth is that it’s difficult for the average person to shirk the obligation without making themselves subject to hefty penalties that could include jail time. How ironic. U.S. citizen? Check. Proficient in English? Check. Disqualifying mental or physical condition? Hmm…check. At least 18 years of age? Barely. Since I could not get out of it, I would embrace it!
Ever being the overachiever, I arrived 15 minutes ahead of the designated time. I dressed tastefully in business casual attire. I carried a notebook, two pens, one pencil and enough magazines to share with those who forgot appropriate reading material and TicTacs. I also sat in the front row, center seat. As the holding room began to grow with prospective jurors, my astonishment also grew. One woman sported Hello Kitty pajama pants and a stained pink tee-shirt begging someone to “Check for Lumps“. I’m only assuming but I don’t think she walked the 60-mile Susan G. Komen charity walk. One gentleman thought it appropriate to wear a baseball cap thoughtfully reminding us to “Sheath that knife, she ain’t your wife“. Two people were reminded to turn off their cell phones whereby one grumbled to the deputy that she had nearly reached a personal best in Candy Crush.
While I understand the club for overachievers is self-appointed, I hereby sentence you to read, absorb and follow elementary court standards out of r-e-s-p-e-c-t. I just could not resist the judicial pun.
1.) Arrive at the appointed time.
2.) Keep inappropriate slogan apparel at home. Your attire should be neat, clean and respectful.
3.) Take off your hat in the courtroom.
4.) Turn off your cell phone. No sound or vibrate modes should be active.
5.) Address the judge as “Your Honor” only. The court is serious about this as one of my fellow jurors attempted to bond with the judge with a “Yoh Man”. He was immediately escorted to the judges chambers with a smirk and came out noticeably smirk-free for the next 3 days.
6.) Keep quiet unless spoken to.
7.) Stand when the judge enters & exits the courtroom.
8.) Pay attention. Do not look though magazines (even the ones I lent you) or work on your knitting project when in the courtroom.
9.) Toss your own personal trash (coffee cups, candy wrappers, newspapers, etc.).
10) Do not talk about the trial details with anyone outside the courtroom or jury room until the end of the trial.
I will admit that I found the entire experience to be “rich”. I made new acquaintances, I served my country without having to wear camo and I learned a little bit more about our judicial system from the right side of the law. The odds are about 1 in 6.73 that you will be summoned to serve within your lifetime. In one year, the odds are roughly 1 in 125 that you will be selected as a juror. Should your number come up, try to remember that the quality and integrity of our democratic system will be demonstrated by you.