Tag Archives: civic duty

Jury Duty

For the third time since I moved to California, I was summoned for Jury Duty. The first time, I had to sit through an entire thing before most of us were dismissed for having heard of asbestos before. The last time I went, I wound up sitting around for a few hours before a judge came to tell us that all the potential cases had been dealt with, and that we were free to go. I was a little nervous going into today, because jury duty only pays $15/day, and though I’m not making that much more on my shifts at work, it’s still a shortfall. But here’s the thing: since I escaped my twenties, I’ve actually been interested in serving. I’d like to say that I was interested in looking out for the interests of the little guy, or even that I’ve finally accepted the necessity of performing one of my three civic duties. but honestly it comes down to the fact that I was on the debate team in high school, and am fascinated by the entire process. I just wish that the state would cough up at least minimum wage for my time, and that they’d pay for the first day. Not that it really matters, though. After sitting on my butt for a little over three hours, looking forward to the ninety minute lunch break wherein I would have to pretend that I wasn’t really hungry because I have no cash, we were informed that we were all being released for the day, thanked for our service, and reminded that we were now free of jury summons for at least another year.

Flor, of course, was livid. She’d already been upset that I’d had to turn down an extra shift at work so that I could discharge one of my civic duties (the others being voting and paying my taxes), and when she found out that it was literally for nothing, she erupted. Fun fact: according to my wife, there is no jury duty in Mexico. If you ever have to go to court, I guess it’s just the lawyers and the judge, which kind of terrifies me a bit. It’s way harder to get to twelve people (plus alternates) than it is to bribe one man (or woman). I tried to explain that for these cases, they needed to have us ready so that if they actually went to trial, we would be ready. It wasn’t our fault if there was a procedural issue that postponed the trial beyond the day of our selection. I mean, they can’t just call us in at the last minute and throw it all together. And in California, we’re on a One Day or One Trial system. That means that if we’re not selected for a jury on the day which we are required to report, we have fulfilled our obligations, and can put it out of our minds for another twelve months. If, however, we are selected for a jury, we must serve the duration of the trial. On the one hand, I’m grateful that I was sent home, as I don’t think that I could afford to only make $15/day, but on the other hand, I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t ever gotten to be a part of the process, except as a defendant.

This has got me wondering, though, if that means that I am a little weird. I mean, do I have some secret agenda? Is there a reason why I’d really like to be chosen to serve upon a jury? Aside from the point about my love of procedural litigation, I do believe that someone should be there to ponder the implications of the law, who is willing to push for nullification should the need arise. And grey areas are my bread and butter. Give me something straightforward, and I will sit and stare at it all day, confused by the fact that there are no hidden tricks just out of view, waiting to trip me up. But abstract questions, and ethics, and the convoluted wording of the written law are things which light me up like what I can only imagine joy must be for other, more normal people. Ask anyone who knows me in real life, and they will tell you (without much prompting) that I am always ready to jump into an argument, and that they would much rather concede whatever point we happen to be discussing, rather than face the possibility of arguing against me for another hour. They are college football players, used to a rapid succession of facts, and a clearly defined winner after an appropriate amount of time. I, on the other hand, am a cricketer through and through, as I am willing to go the distance, even if it might mean a match of wits measured better by days than hours (though my opponents would most rather prefer to measure them in minutes), confident enough in my abilities that I do not require clear criteria for victory, and count a win by default just as worthy as one won by skill. If I were a politician, you could call me Phil A. Buster, is what I’m trying to get at.

So I’ve done my duty this time around, and all that’s left will be to file my taxes and vote in the next election. I’d say that 2016 was going to be a busy year for me, what with having to worry about all three acts of participatory democracy, but I’m not all that worried about getting another summons. I mean, I didn’t even get a summons until I’d already been living here five years (which may have been due to the fact that I didn’t get a California ID card until the middle of November in 2005. The last time they sent me a notice was either two or three years ago, and then they just sent me one this year. Unless the rate of crime skyrockets in the coming three hundred and sixty-five, it’s not looking likely that I’ll have to go until, at the very least, 2017, and by then, I hope to be living comfortably in Mexico, where I’ve heard there is no jury duty. Not that they could summon me, even if they did have juries, as I won’t be seeking citizenship (unless this country finds a way to completely implode).

Huh. It’s a kind of bittersweet realization that this may have been my final chance to have served upon a jury.