Each day, thousands of Americans just like you and me are summoned to take part in our nation’s judicial process by serving as jurors. The 6th Amendment of the Constitution provides that all US citizens have the right to a trial and to be judged by a jury of our peers.
There’s no doubt that jury duty is an important civic responsibility and is one of the highest duties a citizen can perform in a democracy next to serving in our military or voting.
Okay, now that we’re done with the civics lesson, is it just me or does it seem that you always get called for jury duty when it’s majorly inconvenient? No doubt if there is a major life, family or work event coming up a jury summons magically appears in my mailbox.
My original summons arrived way back in December, but due to various obligations over the past six months the court granted me three service postponements. Once I realized that no time would ever be “great” for me, I accepted the last request with no questions asked or excuses made. So recently spent the day at my local county courthouse to serve out my petit jury (like what you see on those TV legal dramas with 12 people in the jury box) service.
Though I spent most of my day in the jury pool room I did get called into two different courtrooms for cases as a prospective juror. However, I wound up being excused by the judges in each case for varying reasons (in one I actually knew the prosecutor, we grew up together!). In my jurisdiction, if you are not selected to serve on a trial by the end of the day you are dismissed and your service is considered fulfilled. Ultimately I wasn’t chosen to hear any case and now I won’t be called back for at least three years.
Sitting in the jury pool room can be long and quite honestly boring if you don’t come prepared, so here are a few survival tips should you be called to serve:
- Take a book, magazine, puzzle book or some sort of e-reader. There will be a lot of down time and not every jury room has a TV to watch mindlessly so you’ll need something to help pass the time. If you’re bringing electronics don’t forget to bring along your charger. With all that down time the last thing you want is to have no battery juice left by lunchtime.
- Bring headphones if you plan on passing the time listening to music or watching a video or movie on your laptop. While you may be a big fan of techno music or the latest hit comedy, chances are everyone else around you isn’t and don’t want to hear/see it. Also you should check with your local court in advance because some offer free wi-fi service.
- Bring drinks, snacks and money. You need to check with your local courthouse for their regulations, but at mine, food and drinks were allowed to be brought into the jury pool room. I was actually surprised at how many people brought their lunches from home with them – but I wound up buying a drink out of a vending machine and lunch from the courtroom cafeteria.
- Dress appropriately. What you wear should show respect for the court. Avoid cut offs, tank tops and flip-flops. To play it safe also think about bringing a light sweater or jacket because sometimes courtrooms can be chilly.
- Utilize the parking offered to jurors. Avoid metered parking spaces, since you really have no idea how long you will be detained at court. Also, as soon as you get scanned in to the jury pool for the day, get your parking validated. The last thing you want to do if after being dismissed for the day is get back to your car and realize that you didn’t get your ticket stamped.
Now it’s your turn to share. Have you ever served on a jury? Was the experience what you expected or what you see on TV?
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