Random Brain Dumping

Musings and observations about life

You’ve been summoned

It’s only happened to me once – until a few weeks ago. I can’t say I was thrilled, but I can say that jury duty certainly is an interesting experience.

Yes, I know jury duty is our civic duty, but it’s so inconvenient.

For starters, my report date was on my off day. I would rather ride my horse on my off day, sleep in, walk around the house in my bathrobe, watch TV.

Almost anything but work on my off day.

Jury duty is work.

For me, it’s even more demanding than work since I actually had to dress in a presentable fashion and leave the house in time to park, catch a shuttle, get to the courthouse, and get through security and to the jury room by 8 a.m.

Map of Fulton County, Georgia

Fulton County is about 80 miles from top to bottom, spans almost 600 square miles, and has a racially and culturally diverse population.

Hundreds of us snaked through lines for blue-summons holders and white-summons holders. Blue for state court, and white for superior court.

After checking in, we were given our choice of seats: some cushioned and upholstered, some metal with cushions, some wooden and uncushioned.

I chose upholstered, anticipating a long sit.

Oddly, each row of upholstered chairs had one metal cushioned chair on the outside, sort of like when you’re in church on Easter, and the ushers have to put chairs in the aisles to accommodate the overflow crowd in their new outfits.

Promptly at 8:30, a court worker welcomed us and thanked us for our service. I’m still not sure how I feel about being thanked for doing what seems like the right thing. Seemed unnecessary, but the guy went on to show a video with former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Justice Samuel Alito, and other judges who thanked us and told us that not everyone who is summoned actually reports.

Hmm. Never thought of not reporting.

One judge, Shawn Ellen LaGrua, actually came into the jury room — in a fuchsia pencil skirt, white blouse and taupe pumps (not the robe I had expected to see) – and gave us a civic lesson on the types of courts we have and the types of cases we might hear in which court.

Three things she said stuck out in my mind.

First, when summoned for jury duty, consider that we’re fortunate in this country to be able to vocalize our dismay at being summoned, grumble publicly about our government, be frustrated at the dismal $25 per day fee – that probably has been the same for 100 years when $25 could buy more than six gallons of gas – all without fear of government or military reprisal.

Second, we’re able to do all that in part because of the dedication of our servicemembers, many of whom would rather be stateside serving on jury duty than be in a foreign country fighting a war and separated from their families.

The final thing LaGrua said that stuck out in my mind was that juries are made up of people like us and that we should grateful for that.

Well, not all looked like me, but someone there probably looked like you, which works in your favor if you ever have to go to court. A few looked so young that one older, white-haired woman asked one of them how old you have to be to serve on jury duty and if she was old enough to serve. The answer is 18.

Juror fashion sense varied from shorts (prohibited by the summons), slack, suits and dresses; T-shirts, polo shirts, polo shirts with suits, T-shirts with slacks, dress shirts with jeans; with thong sandals, pumps, loafers and other footwear.

We were technologically diverse:  for example, a young woman using county-provided Wi-Fi to watch “Desperate Housewives” on her laptop, a woman reading a book on her electronic reader, a man reading a newspaper, me reading the paperback edition of “Catch-22” for the first time, others with nothing and bored or sleeping.

White, Black, Asian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic, other ethnicities. Americans, all. Residents of a county that is 80 miles from top to bottom, congregating in the county seat of Atlanta.

All answering summons for civic duty that O’Connor reminded us was a privilege not a burden.

By the time my name was finally called at 2:30 p.m., people had begun cheering whenever the court staff approached. They only came out when names were to be called for duty or to tell us we could go on break.

I was on the list of residents excused from service.

I leaned to the man next to me and thanked him for his service, as he had to remain behind, then walked to my car and headed home.

Should I have felt slighted that I didn’t actually have to serve on a jury?

Not according to LaGrua. Just showing up for duty should be cause for pride. After all, being summoned for jury duty is like winning the lottery, she said. Some people just get lucky.

She also told us that the penalty for not reporting could be as simple as having your summons reissued or receiving a warrant to report to a judge to explain why you didn’t report and a possible disciplinary action.

I wondered how a person could be disciplined for not reporting.

Maybe, they’ll be summoned for jury duty.

April 30, 2012 Posted by | Random Brain Dumping | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments


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