20 January 2014

My Civic Duty

By the time I reached the Age of Majority in Maryland I was a tax payer, with a vehicle registered with the MVA, and registered to vote.  In Maryland, one is (or was, at the time I first became eligible) eligible* to serve on a jury once every three years.  Montgomery County is (or was, I should check this**) a one-day or one trial jurisdiction, unless one is chosen for Grand Jury service, which is three months, once a week, usually on Thursdays.  

So my history of being called for jury duty looks like this:

In my 20s:  

-  I got a summons for Jury Duty, showed up at the court house, and found that the only possible trial for that day had just settled, so we were released.  Time spent doing my civic duty:  about 15 minutes.

-  Three years later I got a summons for Jury Duty, showed up at the court house with a bad cold, a box of Kleenex, and cough medicine.  Dozed in a chair until we were released around noon.  Time spent being on site and willing to do my civic duty:  3-ish hours.

-  Three years later I got a summons for July Duty, showed up at the court house, and was part of a group chosen to be interviewed for selection.  It was a robbery case and I had had my purse snatched a few years previously, so I was dismissed. 

In my 30s:

-  Three years later?  No summons.  

And none ever since.

Frankly, I was beginning to wonder what they thought was wrong with me.  I'm pleasant, I know how to dress for a grown up occasion, what?  

So, even though I figured that I would get a bureaucratic run-around, I called the Jury Office for Montgomery County.***  Phone was promptly picked up by an actual person who was delighted to help me.

She looked me up.  And just like Gopher in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, I wasn't in the book.  It seems that Montgomery County thought that I had moved out of their jurisdiction.  I said that, no, I've lived here a long time.****  

And so the nice lady put me back in the system and mailed me an invitation to complete a Juror Questionnaire (Do you live here?  Are you a criminal?  Can you read this questionnaire?  Are you old and possibly demented?).  I've completed the questionnaire and now and waiting to once again join the folks who are entitled to decide the fates of others.  I won't get to stand up and yell  "You're out of order!You're out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They're out of order!"*****

In fact, I won't get to say anything in the courtroom, probably.  But as a big fan of our civil liberties and the documents on which they are based that speak so highly of the right to a trial by a jury of one's peers, I am happy to be given the chance to be one of those peers.

Truly.  The joke is that one's fate is decided by 12 people too dumb to get out of jury duty, but is that really what we want?  

I'll be checking my mail!

*This is one of those times where I agree with the bureaucratic language.  Serving on a jury truly is a privilege and one is "eligible" to receive privileges.  

** I checked. All of these are still the case.  

*** David's reaction when I told him that I outed myself to the Jury Office:  "You *called* the Jury ....  Huh..."

**** So it wasn't me, it was them.

***** Come on.  Al Pacino in And Justice for All, of course.


Brett said...

I do not hate jury duty, though I know the odds of my ever being actually seated are low. I go and do my part of being a middle aged white guy who can be safely kicked in the first round of kicks.

Bill said...

Ditto what Brett said. I did have one "scare" with potentially being seated on a federal jury for a trial that would, according to the initial juror survey, probably last three months. The trial was about corporations and such so that being a middle aged white guy probably wouldn't get me kicked out right away. I think it would have been interesting to be involved but three months! Based on my personal situation, the court let me off over the phone.

Maureen said...

The first time I was summoned, the report date was a few days after I would have moved well out of the area for a new job. The Personnel office took care of that one for me (I guess so the Jury Duty folks would know I wasn't just making up an excuse.)

The 2nd time I actually got seated for a trial. It was kinda scary; one person was accused of shooting at someone in another car. The 2nd person's cellphone stopped the bullet.

The 3rd time, I sat and waited, was released around noon. But at least I got a chance to donate my jury "pay" (all $15 of it) to a service for foster children.