Long ago (1988) I moved to Berkeley and started sending a monthly "newsletter" to my Boston friends. When I returned to Boston (1993), I continued the tradition for about five more years (or until I had kids). Looking back, I realize that I was actually blogging. Each newsletter contained anywhere from a few to several blog posts. Having been silent for the past decade or so, I've decided to resume these activities. Don't expect anything profound -- I tend to focus on what I find entertaining or amusing and perhaps sometimes informative. We shall see!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Day on Jury Duty in MA

Lucky me -- I got called for Jury Duty! Having postponed once, all I could do was hope that the dulcid tone on the juror hotline would tell me that I didn't need to report. Although I diligently polled the line waiting for its message to reflect Thursday's message instead of Wednesday's message (when jurors were cancelled), it turns out I had to show up.

Like a good citizen I get to the courthouse at the designated time and although they were quick to make sure I had directions both on paper and the web site, no one pointed out that the parking lot was on the one-way street going the wrong way from the road on which the courthouse officially sits. No problem, I can find my way around the block and to a parking spot, although it might have been handy had they actually told you were you were allowed to park instead of where you weren't allowed to park.

Not to be deterred I made my way through security, beeping wallet and all, but alas there was absolutely no clue about where I was supposed to go to check in. I walked into the first office I found to ask and took my place politely behind the guys checking in for probation appointments and was directed downstairs where there was a sign marked "Jury Room!" Aha - this appears to be the right place. I traded in my questionairre for a juror number and took my seat in the juror room. Upon discovering that there was nary a wireless network to be found, I started typing away on this entry.

Some random observations:

  • There are many fewer people than I expected, based on last jury duty in Oakland. There are only about a fifteen of us total in the room (this makes me nervous; maybe there is no selection and we're actually going to sit on a jury????).

  • Many people didn't bring anything to do. Poor them; we are going to be sitting here quite a while.

  • I seem to be the only one typing away (I'm writing a paper when I'm not blogging, and I also brought my kindle and a paper I'm supposed to read).

A nice court official comes to speak with us around 9:00 AM. He's friendly enough and trying to prep us for the day. It seems that there are nine court cases going on upstairs and at most they will impanel one jury. So the game is that everyone is upstairs trying to settle without a trial. We get to sit here until they either decide they need a jury or decide that none of the cases will need a jury. So, no early dismissal -- we're going to be here awhile -- probably until at least lunch time (1:00). After giving us all the news, he then set up a DVD designed to both tell us about jury duty and get us excited about doing it. Oh yeay; it really worked on me. (There was some amusement getting the DVD working; also a bit of a gasp when this nice court officer who I thought of as a kindly old man turned out to be only eight years my senior.)

10:00 and we're still here ... one guy is talking on his phone quite loudly -- he's bored and just calling people to chat. And now, one of the women wandering around the room chatting with others asked him to take it outside. It's going to be a long day.

Aha -- movement around 11:00. We are told that they are going to impanel a jury and the judge will be down shortly. Update at 11:15 -- well no, they aren't going to be down to impanel a jury, and the judge will come down and tell us why. Around 11:30 the judge comes down. She explains that she has a case, they have witnesses and they need a jury BUT this trial is likely to go longer than today and she won't be here tomorrow. Therefore, she'd need us to sit today and then come back on Monday and that doesn't seem right. So -- she's sending everyone home and they will do the case another day. Interestingly enough, she explains the real value of our presence. It seems that the very fact that there is a jury ready to serve is a forcing function for the parties in the lawsuit -- it usually motivates them to settle.

What an interesting system ...