Court of Many Colors

If there’s a high season for jury duty, perhaps it begins in June. My sister-in-law was summoned to serve last week, as was one of my good friends this week. Like voting, jury duty is that sometimes humdrum responsibility that comes with citizenship in the U.S.  But our government should spend a few pennies to make the summons itself more exciting.  Instead of reading, “You are hearby summoned…”, how about, “Congratulations!  You’ve just won a day in court!”.

48 - humdrum

I was summoned myself several years ago. I think everyone should experience jury duty at least once in a lifetime. My county’s process may be different than yours. After the summons, you call the courthouse and punch in your juror number. If you “win”, you get to report to the courthouse on the designated date. You join a couple hundred of your county-mates in a holding room, where you wait several hours to be called to the individual courtrooms, where you may or may not join eleven of your neighbors in the jury box. The whole filtering process takes about a half a day, and 80% of those who made it to the holding room in the first place are dismissed.  No matter where you end up, you won’t receive another summons for at least a year.

During my summons I did make it to the courthouse, but I never made it out of the holding room. The only drama for me was wondering if my parking ticket would be validated.  But I did depart with an interesting observation. Surrounded by hundreds of others from my county, I realized I was looking at the purest slice of my neighbors that any circumstance can create.

Think about that. Within your county (or just your immediate neighborhood), there are dozens of places where people gather, and countless reasons more for doing so. Schools. Sporting events.  Places of worship. Office buildings. Parks. Supermarkets. Restaurants.  The list goes on. But which can you point to and say “now these are the people that live in my neighborhood.”

Jury duty draws everyone; the business executive and the ditch digger; the homemaker and the traveling salesman; the parent and the (over-eighteen) child; the wealthy, the middle class, and the poor; the overworked and the underemployed; and every other walk of life regardless of political, religious, sexual, or ethnic affiliation. I can even include our county’s youngest residents because our courthouse offers child care!  In fact, the only neighbors you won’t see at jury duty are those with a doctor’s note or those who aren’t U.S. citizens.  Everyone else gets to play.

Jury duty is not sexy. It is typically an inconvenience. Even if you serve, your case is not likely to make headlines. But if you do make it to the courthouse, look around and take a measure of those sitting around you. It’s your county – in a nutshell of the purest kind!

About Dave

Clearly I have something to say. This blog was born of a desire to elevate our speech, using the more eloquent words of past generations. The stories I share are life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a sometimes-forgotten word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read "Eloquence" to understand more about the inspiration for this blog. Read "Phenomenon" for a taste of life in my neighborhood, or "Pageant of the Masters" for a few thoughts on golf's most hallowed venue. On the lighter side, read "Banana Rant" to see how much I dislike the yellow fruit. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to "Life In A Word".
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2 Responses to Court of Many Colors

  1. Ah, jury duty. I was called in for jury duty a few years ago. I was almost put on a murder case and for some reason they decided not to go to court and we were all dismissed. I was really happy. Like you said, it is an interesting process.

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  2. Greg Wilson says:

    I, too, have been through the process a handful of times, and once I even got into the jury box–but was kicked out by one of the lawyers who was trying to “balance” the jury in favor of their side. I was frustrated; I really think it would be interesting to experience the entire process once, and this was supposedly going to be a short case where there were no real victims (it was a DUI case in which no one was hurt; just property damage). I’ve thought that maybe I should just go and sit in the audience for a case–I *think* you can do that…

    Great title, by the way.

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