Thursday, January 31, 2008

the duty of the juror

Some weeks ago, the Sober Husband came upstairs all wound up. "This came for you," he said, holding out a jury duty summons.

His anxiety only built as the weeks went by, building to a fever pitch last weekend. "I can't plan anything," he muttered darkly, "since I may have to spend all week driving the children around while you're on jury duty." This was said in tones which implied that I was a shameless hedonist, abandoning my family for exotic jury pleasures.

I was dozing off one night when the Sober Husband woke me. Looming over me and looking very intense, he said, "I don't want you to feel any pressure about jury duty." I mumbled something and went back to sleep. I thought he was trying to make me feel better about his pressuring me to get off jury duty, and it wasn't for some days that I realized he was in fact nagging me to stand up to the court personnel's pressure and refuse to be chivvied into serving on an actual jury.

On the first three days of my jury duty, I dutifully checked with the court after 4:30 to learn that my group was not required to show up the next day. The Sober Husband seemed to feel that this pattern was well-established, and his dread seemed to abate. I noticed on Tuesday that only two groups had not yet been called in, all the others having been activated, and I mentioned this to the husband with my theory that this guaranteed I'd have to go to court on Thursday or Friday, but he dismissed this. Predictably the next day the last two groups were required, and equally predictably the husband got panicky. "but I just sent out email announcing my talk!"

"What talk?"

"I'm giving a talk at work."

"You KNEW I could have jury duty." I was unapologetic.

Today was the actual day. The other group, which I dubbed "Loser Group", was mandated to report by 8:30. Mine, which I called "Slacker Group", was supposed to turn up by a more leisurely ten a.m. I enjoyed leaving the house alone, kissing the sad husband good-bye, and walking to the subway, just like the old days when I was childless and held paying employment outside the home. The civil court's jury assembly room is actually quite attractive, with plenty of burled wood and subdued lighting. I scored a seat at a nice table, and I became friendly with the gay man nearby, who was pouring over People's annual People Who Lost Half Their Weight issue. I was deeply absorbed in my novel when my name was called, and a large number of potential jurors trudged up to courtroom 303. There the dignified yet perky Judge Tang informed us that we were there to serve in a two month trial. The potential jurors all stiffened in horror at this pronouncement.

Judge Tang withdrew in a dignified manner to her chambers, leaving her clerk to have those of us who wished to weasel out of the trial fill out excuse forms. I wrote on my form that I was the stay-at-home mother of a small child and my husband was unable to take two months off work to care for her. My excuse was one of the very first ones granted, and I scurried off to get my official release form from the jury room. There I saw my poor bored acquaintance from the morning. I tipped him off that he'd most likely be called up to potentially serve on the two month trial. "Why did they call the names from the ten o'clock group when we were still here from 8:30?" he said frustratedly. I shrugged apologetically, and I left after only two hours of jury duty.

Once on the sidewalk, I called the husband. He was incredulous and overjoyed that I was done so soon. So much stress and worry, over losing just two hours of the Drunken Housewife's time. Secretly I had been daydreaming of a nice week-long trial ... escaping from everyday life into the posher confines of the jury box. In reality, it's extremely unlikely I could ever get on any jury, given that I'm not only a former lawyer but also rather bossy. One can always dream, but sadly one spouse's daydream is another's nighmare.


Trouble said...

I've never been called for jury duty, and have always secretly wished I had been. It would probably be way more boring than I imagine it to be, nonetheless, I've seen enough criminal justice television to make serving on a jury seem rather intriguing.

I'm highly unlikely to ever be chosen, however, given that I used to work for a police department.

By the way, I loved this post. You are so deliciously snarky.

hokgardner said...

I would love, love, love to serve on a jury. I've been called several times, but I've never been selected. It could have something to do with my sitting in the panel box, waving my arm and yelling, "Oh pick me! Pick me!"

Epiphany said...

No WAY they would have picked you, because you have (a) a brain and (b) a J.D.

The time I was called to jury duty (didn't serve) I noticed that juries are pretty much made up of students and retired folks. So much for being judged by one's peers.

Sadly, I've known many who refused to register to vote because they were afraid of being called up for jury duty!

Sue said...

I love the way you wrote this out. I'm not sure if I would be annoyed or grateful for the experience if I was called for it.

Anonymous said...

I always longed for jury duty and never got called. My husband was called over and over. Then one day I had a baby and became a stay at home parent and suddenly they started calling me every six months, and I simply COULD NOT do duty. One day, when my kids are in school, I hope to be called again.

hughman said...

DH -

It sounds like between Iris and Lola you're judge and jury every day.

smalltownme said...

The first time I was called for jury duty (last year -- How did I escape for so long?) I was on a 3-day meth posession trial.

This year, I was called again! But after waiting around for half an hour, the coordinator spoke the magic words: "There was a plea bargain. You're all excused."

Anonymous said...

I just got a summons yesterday!

Anonymous said...

you are WAY to smart to be picked for jury duty (besides having worked as a lawyer...)

2amsomewhere said...

(chuckles at thought of replacing Twleve Angry Men with One Drunken Housewife)