Jury Duty

I have come to the county government center to do my civic duty, which apparently consists primarily of sitting around and waiting.

They make a big deal about how our very presence greases the wheels of of the justice system, because nothing spurs on settlement negotiations like the knowledge that a jury trial could start any minute now. They don't want us to get too disgruntled about sitting here doing nothing all day.

Whatever. There are a lot of things I can do while sitting around waiting, especially when the court provides free (if rather slow and sometimes intermittent) wifi access. 

One of the judges comes in first thing in the morning to give a little welcome & thank you song and dance. Her greeting to us was met with a decidedly disgruntled grumble, as articulate a statement as one could imagine of our collective displeasure at being here.

She read to us from a wikihow article on "How to Enjoy Jury Service," claiming that she couldn't say it any better herself.  She started to say that she was just going to plagiarize the article, but caught herself before the word got all the way out of her mouth. I guess it would be unseemly for a judge to claim to be committing plagiarism. And, after all, she was citing her source.

This is my first time reporting for jury duty, since most jurisdictions pull jury lists from a combination of DMV and voter registration records, and up until last year I haven't been licensed to drive and registered to vote in the same place at the same time since college, and at that time I had the excuse of attending school 2,000 miles away from my official residence. 

I did receive a summons for jury duty last spring, but it was in the county where I grew up, where I haven't lived in over a dozen years. My mother responded on my behalf that the 700-mile commute would be prohibitive. 

(In the court's defense, I had only changed my driver's license a few months before I was called, since I had been taking advantage of the full-time student rule until then. If Oregon courts generate jury lists once a year like California courts do, I was probably still on the roles at the time they made the list.) 

So far, the procedure reminds me of nothing so much as the annual grad student campout for Duke basketball tickets. Participants are permitted to go about their business within a specified zone, as long as they remain close enough to hear the signal (whistle; PA announcement) summoning them to "check in," which can happen at any time. Once the signal is given, they have five minutes to get back to the designated spot (campout check point; jury assembly room). If you make it to the end of the specified time period (weekend; business day) without missing a check in, you get the prize (an entry in the lottery for a chance to buy basketball tickets; an exemption from jury duty for the next 12 months). Only here, at every check in, there's a chance you'll be placed on a jury panel. 

Lunch break! 


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