Thursday, February 16, 2017
Jury duty wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for all the waiting
In my book jury duty is a huge waste of time. It wouldn't be so bad if you were able to go in and get it done, but oh the waiting and waiting. And more waiting.
I really don't think that I would mind so much being on a jury. Well, maybe, maybe not, but that's clouded by the stupidity of the only jury I ever served on.
Anyway, on Monday morning, I arrived at the courthouse before 8 AM to perform my civic duty. I was almost amazed that our questionnaires were picked up by 8:20 AM. I thought it wasn't going to be so bad when we were pulled in around 9:30, I think it was, to go through qualifications and exemptions. There was a little bit of a wait as one case was settled that morning while we were standing around.
People were weeded out by age (if you are over 70, you don't have to stay), if they had hearing issues (since the sound system on the newly renovated courthouse are so bad), if you have any kind of felony record, and if you are the sole caregiver of anyone who needs constant care. This was all done before voir dire before seating numbers were assigned for voir dire which hasn't always been the case when I've been summoned for duty. There was a man who was 84 who gave us a laugh because he wanted to hang around to hear what people said. It was his entertainment for the day. The judge wasn't sure if he wanted to be excused or not. Then again, neither were we. Once the crowd was thinned, we were sent out of the courtroom to wait for the name shuffle and seating order.
Even though the courthouse was just renovated, and they knew there were issues with seating for the hours upon hours potential jurors had to wait every time they needed to fill a jury, they still didn't add more benches. People had to stand around, lean on rails (that were being measured to add additional supports and braces to span gaps so children couldn't fall through them while doing things they shouldn't be doing), sit in the floor, and sit on the staircase.
There were only a couple of people I knew there. My cousin's wife was there as was her dad, so they had some quality bonding time. The other person was a guy that I had to do my best to avoid. It's a socially awkward situation. I've been avoiding this guy so I don't have to talk to him for many, many years. It's been a running joke with friends and family. There wasn't a place to hide to avoid some awkward questions.
About 10:45 the seating order was called. I was number 47 of around 90-100. Once everyone got into the courtroom after their name was called, we were recessed from 11:00 - 1:30 for lunch. I went home to work for two hours before heading back up there. We waited around until 3:45 when we were called back into the courtroom and told the delay was due to another judge that had to come in and rule on a motion. At that point, if we started selection, we'd be there until 8:00, so we were all sent home and due back at 9:00 AM on Tuesday. So, I was back home again at 4:00 to get more work in, especially since I had to go back the next day.
I would have rather just stayed and got it over with.
On Tuesday morning, it was back to the courthouse by 9:00 AM. Thankfully, they were ready to get started, and we were called into the courtroom in the same order we were given the day before. Some people had already been excused for the second day for whatever reason, so there were probably 8 spots ahead of me that were empty. I figured that made me 39 on the list and from past experience, that wasn't a guaranteed off the hook.
As the district clerk was calling numbers, the judge signaled something and the bailiff told the clerk to hold on. They both commented they knew what that meant. They were calling for a reshuffle. Everyone was sent back out again. Supposedly, the shuffle list was already printed, so it wouldn't take long. "Won't take long," is relative. When we were called back in, I was number 50, with a few missing seats since the list was pulled before crossing out the missing names. I think there were maybe 80 people.
Then we went through an hour and a half of voir dire. Each side and 45 minutes. The District Attorney's office questioned everyone through seat 60. I was a little surprised they went that deep in their questions. Without giving facts of the case, the defendant was accused of being in possession of a small amount of drugs found in a car that was not his (one question was about if we had ever rented a car, so it was either rented or borrowed). Questions centered around definitions of possession.
After that, we were sent out again, and they called some people back in for further questioning based on the answers they gave. I lost track of how many people they called in. Then, they called me and the guy that was sitting on my left at 51. As we waited by the door, my cousin's wife told how they grilled her. The bailiff came back to the door and told us we could go back out where we were. They evidently thought they had gone deep enough. So we waited while both sides struck people from the list.
During this wait, we were told to go ahead and line up to get paid. I found that really unusual because you usually get paid on the way out. What was the biggest surprise is that the first day was $6, but for having to come back for a second day, we got $40 for Tuesday. Nice, but not enough to cover my time away from the office.
We were called back in and told to sit where we wanted. They called the 12 jurors and 1 alternate. The alternate was the man sitting to my right at number 49. That's how deep they went to get their jury. That's how close I was to getting selected. Then, there was an objection or question of some sort. We were all sent back out.
Called back in. That's when everyone not on the jury were finally dismissed. By then, it was 1:15 PM and the jury got to take lunch when we all left.
So, it was two very long days of doing little more than waiting. If it weren't for all the in and out, it wouldn't be so bad. Nothing interesting to share, just a tale of frustration.
It's also been exhausting because I've been making up work hours late, and I almost have them made up. Hopefully, I won't be summoned again anytime soon. I think it's been about 20 months between summons even though the last time was a different court. Wish me luck!