Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jury Service Served

   A couple of months ago, I was sent an invitation to serve my community by sitting in as a juror at one of California's finest courthouses. My response was the same as most Americans' would have been. I immediately began to dream up excuses for why I could not serve. Now, let me explain something, because I know some of you cringed while reading that and thought, "ugh....jury duty is your civic responsibility. You are not patriotic."
   I believe in civic responsibility. Perhaps, I believe more than a lot of you. I have served on a jury before without trying to get an excuse out of it. I even turned 21 while serving on that jury. Let me make that more clear, I sat on jury duty on my 21st birthday as well as the day after my 21st birthday. Not only that, but when I vote, and I do vote, I vote for civic responsibility. I would be the one that supports much higher taxes in order to properly fund our communities. Also, while I do not support most of the social services widely available, I would be one of the few that believe that at the least, if we are going to have these social services, the only way they can be supported is with finances gained through higher taxation.
   Anyway, before I get too far off on my political beliefs, I really, genuinely needed to get out of jury duty this time. Most people know that I am a self-employed housewife (is there a male equivalent to that? I do not think so.) that was also a full-time student at that time. It was my final semester. I am responsible for the daytime care of my children, whether it be being home with them or able to respond to whatever need the school has at whatever random time it comes up. Plus, we also depend on my income to get through the month. I filled out my excuse card stating that my excuse was the care of my children.
   The first response I received was a denial of excuse. I would have to report. For those who want to know, I cannot remember the exact date but it was the week of Veteran's Day, early November. This was not going to work. Sure, it is my civic duty, but I would have two kids out of school just to serve, that is not right. I sent an email to the courts explaining this situation. A couple of days later, I get another postcard response saying my jury duty had been delayed until December 27th. They postponed it until a time when they knew the kids were out of school. The courthouse has a childcare facility on-site; probably just to prevent this excuse.
   "Alright," I thought, "Fine, I will make my kids sit in there for a week of their vacation so I can serve jury duty right after Christmas." I really did not want to, but I have come to accept that my luck is of the such. The way it goes here, you look online or call in the weekend before to see if your jury group has been called in to serve. I checked online on Christmas to see if I would have to serve. I got a message that said I would not need to report on Monday, but to check back Monday night after 6:30PM to determine if I needed to report on Tuesday. How nice of them to give several hours notice.
   Same message on Monday night. I could hardly take the suspense. If I was not called to serve on Wednesday or Thursday, I knew I would be off free for the year, because Friday is a government holiday. I felt for sure I would end up having to go on Wednesday. My car is not waterproof and we were expecting heavy rain Wednesday morning. Again, my luck. Checked Tuesday night, same message.
   Turned out that my brother-in-law and his wife wanted to have the kids over last night. I thought for sure my luck had run out. Kids were supposed to be out of the house for the first time in what seems like years (they are on Christmas break). Finally, 6:30PM rolled around and I checked again. I was pleasantly greeted with a message saying my group had not been called and my service was fulfilled for at least a period of one year. Hallelujah!
   One thing about me serving on jury duty anyway; you should never feel as if I am your peer if I am sitting on the jury for your trial. I do not think anybody really does feel that way anyway, but definitely not with me. To be a peer, in my eyes, suggests a relationship that you and I probably do not have. If we are indeed peers, I probably am not welcome to sit on a jury in your trial. I understand, we do not have to be well acquainted, but I just see a bias on some level there. Anyway, if I am selected, I will really watch you. I will really hear the words you say. I will really make my own judgment. I will really fight for what I believe in deliberations. I am the guy who will decide your trial. Not only that, but I might already have it decided before the trial even begins. I am good at keeping an open mind, and when I served on my first trial, I thought the plaintiff would win right off the bat. Through watching her, her witnesses, and many other things in the trial, I decided she should not win her case in any degree. It was a civil suit. She did not get a penny. I am not sure if you want a guy like that on your jury. It is a dangerous choice to make during selection.
   A thing about how jurors are selected. Most of us know that it seems like if you are a person who has been selected for jury service, that you are one of a few that you know that ever gets selected for jury service. This is how randomness works. You may be selected as often as once a year, and you are the lucky one that is randomly selected every year. Here is my proposal: how about in a state where 1 in 8 of us is currently unemployed, we make the people collecting unemployment insurance serve on juries before bothering people whom are gainfully employed. If you want your unemployment check, go serve on juries. They need you, you will be paid more than you would if you did not collect unemployment and served on a jury, and you are supposed to be looking for work anyway. I am just saying, want your unemployment check? Help me out too then. Go sit on juries so I do not have to.
   Again, I will reiterate that I really do not mind sitting in on a trial as a juror every couple of years. However, I sure am glad I did not have to this time.

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