Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jury Duty

I didn't get selected, getting out of the courthouse just before 1 and grabbing lunch before coming home. So I ended up missing just over half a day and am still working a bit to get caught up.

The whole process was interesting, though slow and boring as well. I'm torn about not being picked since I've never served and it would have been interesting. However it would have jammed me up for work, or jammed up my co-workers, so I'm a little glad that I didn't.

I arrived and had to fill out a little paperwork. I hadn't read the summons, which had a short form on it to fill in your name, address, etc. So I filled that in, and went back to the clerk. Most everyone else was in the same boat and were filling theirs out as well. Once I did that, I got two more forms, one just with name/address for proof of service and the other a series of questions to be excused. I assume they don't give you them all at once to ensure that you don't lose something.

Seems inefficient, especially as they could easily have a stamp or something on the mailed card as proof of service. Lots of paper, though maybe that's the easiest thing to handle. It's a small courthouse and county, so it's not busy. Only one trial today.

After sitting in a room for nearly 2 hours, they finally said that they were ready to begin. There was only a civil case and they needed only 6 jurors plus an alternate. They began calling people in sets. First 7 as the likely candidates, then 6 (I was #10 overall in here), then we had 4 more come in the courtroom. Finally about 15 more in the gallery. Each set of us was walked into the courtroom and we had to remain in order, and seated in order. I guess that's a legal reason that people are processed in an order.

After another 20-30 minutes the judge was announced, we stood, he came in, said hi, said sit down, we sat. The reason we had 17 was that 7 would be empaneled, and the lawyers could whack 10 (5 each). So if no one was let go for cause, the first 17 was OK.

From there things were slow. He talked about the process, which was slow. He apparently was reading from a script. It took awhile and he explained that we were the first case in this new courtroom. So they were working out bugs. Fortunately we could all hear and see, and so he began to question us. He asked a lot of the same questions from the form, but then also questioned specific people that responded to other questions, like "do you know the plaintiff", and similar questions.

From there the lawyers each had a chance to ask questions. For the most part I had no reason to raise my hand at any of them. The only one was a question about who was a landlord (or had been one). The case was a civil suit arising over an insurance issue. Homeowners said the agent hadn't informed them properly, they cancelled a policy, didn't have proper coverage.

So we went through this for over an hour, and no one was dismissed for cause. Then the lawyers had their preemptory challenges. The process was a chart was passed from lawyer to lawyer, back and forth until each had crossed out 10 people. From there the judge then listed the 7 serving, and the 10 dismissed. The entire gallery was dismissed, and actually the first 7 people were chosen. So I missed by 3.

It was good and bad. I would have liked to serve, but they estimated a 4 day trial, which would have sucked.

This was different than Douglas county. There I sat in a criminal case, and they brought in about 50 of us. As they asked questions, or people claimed hardship, they removed people right away. As they lost people in the box they moved new people in from the gallery. That time I was like 30 or 40 in, and despite a lot of people getting let go, I never go to the jury box.

Still, I did my duty. I'm good for the rest of 2009, though with my luck I would expect to get called in 2010.

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