Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Civics in action

I did my civic duty yesterday, jury duty that is.

I spent most of my day in a large room with people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and ages.
I began to understand what cattle must feel like as were were herded and then held in the jury pool room at the courthouse in downtown Boston. There seemed to be a good number of people who ran into a friend or acquaintance in the holding pen. I caught up on some reading and worked on some Sunday NY Times crossword puzzles that I'd saved up (yes, I'm sort of a crossword puzzle geek).

We watched a video that was boring but useful. It was during the video that I began to notice a theme that court employees would touch on -- that we should feel good about being there at jury duty because our mere presence, even in the holding pen, was very important. In theory, I understand why it's important to be judged by a jury of your peers, and I appreciate that they want us to feel more than just apathy and annoyance for being called, but it got to be kind of condescending. Unless you're going to pat my head and give me a cookie for being here, please stop treating me like a child.

Eventually, after a long waiting period, I made it to an actual courtroom. I hoped that things would get more interesting. They did not. The benches were so uncomfortable. Is there a rule that says that furniture in the courtroom has to be as old as the system the law is based on?

So, I sat and sat, as the judge, lawyers, and court officials involved int eh case called each potential juror (there were like 50 of us in there) up to the bench to talk privately. It would seem as if they had a jury all picked out. Then the would lawyers dismiss people, sometimes without having to give a reason (they're allowed to). This went on for like another hour. I did some more reading. My turn to speak to the legal eagles finally came and I told the judge what I'd been dying to since she introduced the case- that I had a friend how worked for one of the parties involved in the case and I felt that it colored my point of view. (I was being honest, not just whining to get out of jury duty). Not sure why I couldn't tell them that to begin with... like when the judge asked if anyone knew any of the parties involved or had reason that they might not be bale to be impartial.

Dismissed back to the hold pen. Yay. More waiting. A snack (they thoughtfully have a sandwich counter right outside the jury pool area, and a break room to eat in). Banter with other prisoners of jury duty. Eventually all of us remaining in the holding pen were (thankfully) dismissed.

What lesson did I take away from this experience?
That the people who work in law (judges, lawyers, officers, etc...) must have endless amounts of patience to deal with such a boring process everyday. I admire their dedication to something that can, at times, seem obtuse and arcane.

1 comment:

Jay said...

In Canada, it seems like that never happens. The only people I know who have been called for jury duty are Americans.

But I know what you mean - the whole process seems to take forever, and for what, really? How much of it is necessary? It seems like it could be improved all kinds of ways...