gavel "establish Justice"

Summoned to jury duty

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When Ben Franklin quipped, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes" he overlooked a third certainty: jury duty.

Before I moved to California, I did not know anybody who had been called for jury duty. Since moving to California, practically everybody I know is always being called for jury duty. Funny thing, but that "one day, one trial" rule results in an ominous envelope appearing in my mailbox every year.

jury summons
The dreaded official jury summons

This year was no exception. When I checked the court website on Saturday, I was told to check again on Monday after 6pm. When I checked Monday, I was told to check again on Tuesday after 6pm. When I checked Tuesday, I was told to check again on Wednesday after 6pm. When I checked Wednesday, I saw the words I dreaded but had begun to dare hope I would not see:

required to report

Accordingly, I roused myself at the crack of stupid this morning to brew a cup of coffee and head to Indio in the other end of the valley. Mind you, it's not that far in miles, but psychologically it is "way down in Indio" whither residents of Palm Springs rarely go.

I found a place to park and took my place in line, waiting for them to open the doors and start security screening. The person ahead of me was a young lad, early twenties, wearing black khaki pants and a white shirt, with the sleeves rolled up and collar open. My attention was immediately drawn to the collection of animal hairs clinging to the back of his pants legs. Cat? Dog? Couldn't tell. Whatever. Mostly white, in any case. Then I noticed a mild scalp condition. Psoriasis? Ordinary dandruff? Or were those actually nits? Hmmmm. Leaving adequate personal space is always good.

Eventually we were admitted to the inner sanctum to check in at the "jury assembly room" and begin the tedious process of waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

After repetitive announcements about making sure our cars were in the juror parking area and not the employee area — "You will be cited, and it will cost you $25" — the obligatory video about the California justice system and what a great experience being a juror would be; the pro forma greeting from a robed judge; and then more waiting, the announcements began.

When I call your name, come to the front and check in, then go downstairs and wait by the security desk for a deputy who will escort you across the street to a courtroom.

A very large number of people had been called, perhaps 50 or more; must have been a serious trial to draw such a big pool of potential jurors. Murder? More waiting.

For this next group, when I call your name you may leave, but you must come back at 1:30pm when we will make another announcement.

Pretty big group, room is now about half empty. More waiting.

Those of you who are left, I've just been notified that you will not be needed for a trial today, so when I call your name, you are excused and will not be called for jury duty for at least a year. The groups are drawn randomly by the computer, so you were just lucky.

Yesssss! Just in time for lunch.

justice (Image:

It's supposed to be a great right and privilege to be tried by a jury of your peers. Having sat in that jury assembly room for each of the past five years, I'm not so sure....

They say—

Update: My story apparently hit a nerve.

Hey, this is weird. I was called for Jury Duty THIS WEEK too. I had a board meeting so I got a delay until next week, but my number was up for this week. Wow.
Last time I got the notice in the mail [with a form] ... saying you can serve or why you can not. I wrote on the form something like: You people called me each of the last two years and I had to serve on a jury each time. How about giving me a break? A week later I got a letter excusing me for another year.