Thursday, February 03, 2011

Jury Duty, part one

(My first instinct was to make a play on the word "duty" with "doodie," even though actual poo is no part of this story. Just so you know what kind of writer you're investing your time with here.)

The groans of anguish that are emitted when one gets a jury duty summons aren't unique to L.A. Although, I remember reading an article years ago that in-the-know celebrities could call a certain number and weasel out of service. I believe that practice has been eliminated. A crude google sweep shows a few who've had to serve recently.

I had to show in October, but when the jury pool clerk offered forms for people to delay service, I filled one out and gave a flimsy reason just to see if they'd let me out. Sure enough, they did. Perhaps I was hoping that they'd forget to summon me again. But if A-list celebrities can't evade service, marginally successful authors sure as hell can't. I don't know what I was thinking, actually.

Which brings us to last week. After receiving my summons two weeks earlier, I was instructed by a very nice phone prompt to appear at the superior court in downtown L.A. Tuesday morning for possible jury selection. Naturally, I took our subway down there. Traffic to downtown eats ass in the morning, but for $1.50 you can get a ride there in about half an hour and arrive at a station that's about a one-minute walk from court. I hear it cost $300 million per mile to build the subway. If you ask me, it was a goddamn bargain. The 101 freeway between Hollywood and downtown should be shot.

When you arrive at the superior court,  you have to go through a metal detector. And this is civil court, not criminal. Then you go up an escalator and walk about four miles to the jury pool room, where a woman explains the ins and outs of what you are doing there today. I've decided that unloading the same speech every morning to a room full of strangers who don't want to be there is probably worse than any job I've ever had and I wouldn't want it, even with government benefits.

Part of her spiel goes on about how all citizens have a duty to do this, regardless of status. Why, a sitting judge showed up in jury duty just last week, she explained. And on the wall are a grand total of four pictures of celebrities who've served: Harrison Ford, Camryn Manheim, Weird Al Yankovic, and someone else I don't remember. I'm thinking the fourth pic may have been of our mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, but I may be confused on that count because I was still kind of tired -- and we always see him all the damn time anyway. Angelenos see Antonio Villaraigosa's maniacally happy grin more than Orville Redenbacher, Paul Newman, and the Quaker Oats guy combined.

After a couple of hours, about 30 names were called for the first group to go to a courtroom for possible jury selection. I was one of the 30. We headed up to the fifth floor and were treated to several hours of lawyers asking us questions about frivolous lawsuits, looking where you're going, and rugs with corners that get turned up. But the lawyers were not allowed to mention particulars of the case. Gee, I wondered, what ever in the world could THIS case be about?

The judge admonished potential jurors for trying to get out of service merely by saying they couldn't be impartial if they didn't mean it, and I'm the kind of person who's easily cowed by such things. So when my turn came, I answered some of the earlier questions the lawyers had with as much brutal, one-sided honesty I could engineer: I think we have too many frivolous lawsuits, I think we're a nation full of finger-pointers, I'm a big believer in personal accountability, I look where I'm going, and I have a rug in my bathroom so I don't slip when I step out of the shower. Naturally, the defendant's attorney had no objection to me being on the jury. I figured the plaintiff's attorney would bounce me off if (a) he weren't an idiot, and (b) all the other jurors weren't declaring the same things. I lost on both counts. I was on the jury.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Watch out; jury duty's what inspired me to go to law school. I was like, Hey I could do this standing and arguing stuff just as well as THIS chick - AND I can coordinate an outfit better. Long story short: It ain't all dancing babies and short skirts, like Ally McBeal would have you believe. Get in and get out, before it costs you eighty grand in law school tuition.