Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jury duty on election day

I'm doing my part in the democratic process by doing jury duty today. (I voted by mail over the weekend and am crossing my fingers for a positive outcome in spite of the dire media reports!) I haven't done jury duty since the early 90s! The room seems smaller but better equipped. The chairs are more comfortable than the hard plastic ones I remember. And yay! The room has wi-fi! I'm in a study carrel on my laptop.

In the early 90s, jury duty lasted for 2 weeks, whether you got called for a jury or not. Now it's one day. If you're not called for a jury duty, you're done.

My one experience serving on a jury was not particularly pleasant. It was a fraud case--something to do with pinball machines!--and I remember getting frustrated with the other jurors because they were so gullible and believed that if were being said in a court of law, it was true. It didn't help that the two lawyers trying the case were brand new and took FOREVER with each of their arguments. The judge had to keep telling them what to do. At the end of the trial, the judge came into the jury room and actually apologized to us for the lengthy, cumbersome trial (and explained that the lawyers were green). I've heard from attorney friends that this is pretty unusual.

I've received jury summons over the years, but for one reason or another, I've been unable to serve (been on maternity leave or couldn't get away from work). Now they allow you to delay your service if you request. This is a delay--originally I was called in August, during the week we had planned to go to Vancouver, BC.

I've been wishing I don't get called onto a trial...but this morning as I was walking downtown from my office (15 minutes away), I changed my view. I'm going to try to have an open mind. If I get called on a jury, my hope is that it's a short one!

The jury service was opened this morning by an upbeat judge, who greeted the jurors and gave us a pep talk. She just talked about the importance of voting and said that serving as a juror is the only requirement of women in this country. (Men are also required to register for selective service.) She said that she's met with judges from other countries who are contemplating a jury system and admire our country's judicial process. She emphasized how jurors stand up to the most powerful institutions in the world, including our government. Jurors are the least likely to make corrupt decisions--because they have nothing to gain from the decisions they make. No one can revisit a decision that a jury makes (unlike a judge's decision). I must say that I feel more positive about jury duty with this preamble than I did before.

We take our democracy for granted. This is a good reminder not to do that.

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