Why does jury duty get such a bad rap?

March 10, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

I am typing this from the central jury room of the Westchester County Courthouse where I have been called to serve on jury duty. It is my first hour and I’m having a ball. I really do not understand why jury duty gets such a bad rap; I personally find the whole thing pretty great.

First of all, you get to sit down and read for long periods of time, with no one interrupting you or calling you on the phone. There are no meetings, at least not at the beginning, which is bliss. There is, in my case, a nice woman in the row behind me who volunteered to share her newspaper with me. And the chance to engage in a little armchair behavioral science is just too good to pass up. To wit:

–when people get up after orientation to go to the jury lounge for exemptions, are they convicted felons, or do they just have a medical condition? I’m dying to know.

–there was a funny little line on the summons instructing all of us to "please dress in a manner that shows respect for these important proceedings," and I really believe most of my fellow jurors took this seriously. There are no sweat pants that I’ve seen, which is a relief.

–the 10 minutes of Q and A about municipal parking: is it a troubling indication that some of my fellow jurors either do not follow written instructions well, or are of limited intelligence? And what does that mean for future deliberations?

I could go on and on. The commissioner of jurors is pretty and poised and extremely well-spoken, and has the posture of a former beauty queen. I hung on her every word. The presiding judge who came in to address us reminded us that "to be a good American citizen you only *have to* do 3 things: obey the law, pay your taxes, and come here for jury service". I was inspired, and hung on his every word too. On our first break there was a guy pacing in the hall, still in his trench coat, saying into his cell phone: "he doesn’t want to go to jail…the trial was over yesterday…nothing for future pain and suffering….". Riveting!

I am not a person who frequently thinks about patriotism, but jury service really makes me very proud to be American. And I wish people would just quit griping about it, remember that it’s actually a privilege, and consider the alternative. You could be living in Russia.

Of course, I’ve only been here an hour.