On Jury Duty: Point Two: The Whole System is Screwball
The system itself is often dumber than the people wrangled in. For all its specifics on a number of important points, the jury duty summons letter skips a basic bit of information. It doesn’t say, “You will, without question, be here until lunch the first day. If you are selected, you will be present through lunch for the length of the trial. You may bring lunch into the building.” In fact, it says nothing about eating whatsoever. Nobody on my panel was under any illusion of getting sequestered and fed by the courts (though all of us seemed to know that part.) But we all thought food from home was forbidden.
It turned out there was a cafeteria. They offered us free sodas and sold cheap nosh, but we were also totally allowed to bring our own. One guy was a diabetic and the administrator had to run around and find him some crackers because he didn’t know if he was allowed to bring his in and didn’t want to risk getting fined.
The summons’ list of don’t-brings is all about metal and electronics, but it isn’t complete. So people showed up with stuff they thought would be legit. For instance, umbrellas. Um-fucking-brellas. It was threatening to pour when I got there. I was too lazy, prepared to endure a dunking, but another woman had her bumbershoot along and was required to leave it at a random table in front of the exit. Where it was still technically in the fucking building. She could totally have seized it and gone crazy.
The guy at the desk couldn’t take a minute to make sure it didn’t conceal a samurai sword-gun in a hidden central compartment and pass it through? He was already x-raying our shit for God’s sake.
Something that was clearly forbidden gets my “come on” award. No cell phones. The given reason is security. Cell phones can be used to detonate bombs and leak secrets. And a courthouse has to protect against that terrorism shit (a flippant way to put it on 9/11, I suppose) and protect people’s right to privacy. But that’s not really why they’re banned, I’m certain.
The real reason is judges would get sick of fining people for contempt after an hour. See point one about stupid-as-shit people if you think most potential jurors would turn off the toys. Half of of all people forget they’re on in the theater, and that’s those folks who aren’t bored and rudely playing games to pass the time. Imagine the jury pool tainted by the guy on the end who couldn’t remember the trial because he was too busy with peashooters and imp zombies.
But wholly banning them is absurd in the twenty first century. There should be a drop off and safe monitor point where they can be left and where emergency calls can be answered.
Think about it. I suspect many single parents request deferrals on the basis of being sole caregivers. But several were on my panel. They did not request deferrals, not out of stupidity, but because they were willing to serve. But they had to make major sacrifices to do it.
They were out of pocket, worried about their kids. Caregivers, daycares, and schools had no way of contacting them. Not. Acceptable. You want a representative jury pool? You make it possible to serve. You won’t allow phones? You provide an emergency number jurors can give loved ones. Who knows. Maybe there was a number and nobody bothered to communicate it. I find this doubtful.
The summons claims the system wishes to inconvenience the prospective juror as little as possible, but the reality is that only noisy problems are addressed. The system doesn’t want to be hassled with the jurors. And everyone from juror through defendant is completely screwed in the façade.
The king is dead. God save the king.
God bless America.
And give me back my damned phone.
Check in tomorrow to find out how small my state really is
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.