Monday, March 8, 2010

the glacial pace of justice

I was summoned to jury duty today.
sigh... jury duty... again...
Honestly, i have been summoned more times to jury duty than anyone else i've ever met. I know that it is a random system, but something about my name or address or soundex number is very attractive because the moment i am eligible, i am called.
Of course, i can never serve on a criminal trial having been the victim of a violent crime (mugged at gunpoint in college) and i can't serve on a civil trial that lasts more than one day because of my job. Basically, i keep getting summoned, but never picked.
I don't really mind going because i truly believe that it is my civic duty to participate in the legal process, but DANG is it boring. No one tells you that being called to jury duty means waiting and waiting and waiting, all day long.
 I saw people in the assembly room that hadn't even brought a book with them.
How ever would you survive without a book?
 I don't want that to happen to any of you, so let me share this Public Service Announcement as i walk you through the sheer tedium that is A Day at Jury Duty.
In Baltimore County you need to report to the assembly room by 8:30am for petit jurors.
Don't forget to leave plenty of time to drive rush-hour traffic into the county seat, park in one of the 3 county owned garages, walk to the courthouse and go through security.
 BTW, you can't bring scissors or cameras with you; sheriffs will take them away.
Once in the assembly room, find a seat and wait to check in.
And wait.
 And wait.
Now would be an excellent time to read the pamphlets you've been given about the legal process and your job as a juror.
Once your group is called, stand in line and wait to check in.
And wait.
At the first station you get your work pass and have your parking ticket validated (you did remember to bring it with you, right?).
Then go wait in another line to sign your name and get your jury allowance.
Then go back to your seat and wait.
And wait.
And wait. After all they have to check in hundreds people.
A nice jury office assistant will eventually come over the PA to welcome you all and give you a basic layout of the assembly space and an overview of the day's proceeding (how many trials there are, etc).
Then you wait.
An informative DVD from the 80s then plays explaining everything you already read about in the pamphlet.
Then you wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Eventually, they will start calling numbers.
If your number is called -and it isn't necessarily in numeric order that they are called, so listen close- you line up to go to the court.
Once in the court you wait and wait and wait.
 The nature of the trial is explained to you. Then the selection process starts. The judge asks a bunch of questions like Do you know the defendant? or Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime? or Are you related to a police officer? and if the answer is yes to any question you have to stand up, state your name and selection number. After all of the questions are answered, the judge then goes back through and asks specific jurors specific questions about their answers. The attorneys go back and forth tossing jurors until they have the 12 or 13 that they can agree upon. Often a prospective juror is dismissed without any reason being given; they tell you not to take it personally, but really, who wouldn't take it personally?
I guess that the trial would then start; i've never made it that far.
But let's say that your number is not called in the first round. In the 6 times i've been summoned and the 3 times i've actually had to go to the assembly room, i've only made it upstairs once.
Back in the assembly room, you continue to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
By this time it is too close to lunch to start another selection process, so you break for lunch.
Today, i was smart enough to bring my lunch with me so i moved to the cantine and ate. Then back out to the quiet room and my book to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Last time, we were dismissed after lunch cause they had all the jurors they needed. Today, they did a second round of number calling, lining up and filing up to the courtrooms. Still, Niki's number -332- was not requested.
You know what time it is: time to wait.
And wait.
And wait.
Finally, they announce that all of the jury positions have been filled for the day and you can go.
I would never try to get out of jury duty because of the responsibility and civic duty, etc, but man, i wish there was a way to speed this process up a bit. I don't want the Queen of Hearts just chopping off people's head, but come on people, let's get a move on already.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Man, I'm glad that my jury duty was in Carroll County..