This last week I had the honor of serving on a Jury.
I say honor and I mean it with all my heart.
Yes… I will also admit that there are parts of jury service that are boring beyond tears. The initial waiting for your panel to be called, then the process of selection where the various lawyers get to find new and exciting reasons that you do not belong on the jury. The silly questions that they ask you during this process that, many times, have nothing to do with the trial at hand.
I will take a moment and explain something to those of you that may not be aware of how jury service, or at least jury service in Kern County (California, USA) works. You see, we have this way of doing it called One day or One Trial. Where you get your summons, come in and wait. If through the course of the day you are not selected or called to a panel, you are released from service… you have met your obligation. More often than not, however, you will be called. Once that has been done, you will get to go through a selection process and placed on a jury panel, or you will be excused from that panel and sent back to the waiting area where you are placed back in the queue for another chance. Again, if you are not selected by the end of that day, you are done… having completed your service.
Now… I have been called many things for saying this, but I really enjoy jury service. Not only do I see it as one of your, our, obligations as US citizens, but it is fun to see the system work and to actually take part in it as a piece of the machinery. For that period of time, you are part of the legal system, making the system work. It is not so much a sense of power or control, but a feeling of purpose.
Short of being a member of the US military or working in the civil service, I do not think that people get to experience anything that makes them part of the “system” the way jury service does. Yes… I know… I probably sound a little like some demented zealot touting how great the system is. I will not lie and say that it is perfect, but we are humans, therefore perfection is not even in the equation.
Since 1987 I have been on, counting this latest one, five juries. Somehow, someway, I have been placed in the system soas to be chosen quite often. Of those juries, I have been impressed with the judges and many times discovered that the attorneys often live up to their reputation. But then again, I would have to think that in order for them to do the work they do, they would have to learn to be a little slick or silver-tongued in order to accomplish the things they do. That being said, I will not condemn them for what they do… just envy them the money they make for doing it.
While I cannot talk about the trial itself, I will say that the judge was probably the most amusing of all that I have seen. His name is John Brownlee and to meet him and listen to him, you would immediately think that this was a person meant for the entertainment industry. If Judge Brownlee happens to stumble upon this article, I hope that he understands that this is meant complementary. He has the personality of a intelligent, off-duty comedian and a voice that should have been reserved for radio announcing. His interaction with the jury led me to feel that he saw them as more important than the lawyers or even the defendants. Something that I was not used to in my trial experience.
The trial lasted for about four days and was interesting. There were no outbursts from anyone, no lawyers or defendants yelling, “You can’t handle the truth!”, no one threw chairs, punches or spitting… and no aging ex-football stars trying on gloves. It was, over all, a boring trial. In fact, Judge Brownlee started this little thing where he would look at the jury pit and give a thumbs up to us all… if we did not respond, he would have the bailiff shoot us with his taser… just kidding… I think he was doing this to make sure we were not falling asleep.
Now it is just a matter of waiting for the next one. At the present rate, I should see my next summons sometime in August of 2010 or 2011. To bad the court system does not issue “Frequent Juror Reward Cards”, I might actually have won something by now, but with the state budget the way it is, I would hate to see what the prizes would be.
As always… thanks for reading.