Monday, June 13, 2016

Civic Duties

My number came up for jury duty a month or so ago and I ended up having to report in on Monday. The system is usually not too crazy: get a number, check the web site the night before, and see whether your number is above or below the cutoff. Mine was 468, so I figured I had a great shot at avoiding the whole thing for another year or more. Nope: they called up to number 623. (As some of the people called asked for deferments, it wasn’t really 623 jurors, but still, a big number.)

I reported in on time, went through the metal detector - twice, because no one bothered to say that the cafeteria was outside the security perimeter - and sat. And sat, and sat. In fact, the entire day they called only three groups to form juries, getting through roughly numbers 1 through 295.

Here’s the thing: every time I’m called, I get the lecture about how important this is to the process, yada yada yada. And, to be fair, Montgomery County has made the room as comfortable as a waiting room can be - true, that’s a low bar, but it’s still something. But calling huge numbers of people to sit and wait clearly means that process is done for someone else’s convenience, not mine.

I don’t have a great solution for the problem. I know that the system relies on a whole bunch of people - judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, the perps (er, defendants), jurors, clerks, and so on - and that no one wants the whole shebang to come to a halt because they’re short a few potential jurors. It’s also the case that cases often settle at the last minute, so the court has to prepare for those trials even though they know from experience that some sizable fraction won’t need juries. But damn it’s irritating to sit around all day. Maybe they could give us pagers, like the ones some restaurants use to let you know when your table is ready. At least I could have been outside on a nice day, or hanging out in the Rockville library, or drinking decent coffee nearby.

On the bright side, not having been on an actual jury, I can go back to work tomorrow and catch up on the crap that I let slide today. No rest for the wicked...

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