jury duty

I am on call for jury duty this week. I am a great believer that jury duty is a central component of our democracy (such as it is these days) and that individual involvement in the process is important. The process, however, is not ideal. Here in Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley, the system involves checking in on the Web (or on the phone) twice a day. So late Friday afternoon I checked my status for Monday morning. Monday at noon I checked my status for Monday afternoon. Late Monday afternoon I check my status again. Those instructions are to check back Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., since tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, a government holiday. This goes on until you are notified to go in or are released. There is a temptation to consider this a form of Chinese water torture, but I’m not sure there’s a better method. The courts never know when a given case will go to trial and it certainly beats the heck out of sitting around the courthouse when there is nothing going on. At least you can go about your business until you are needed.

The last time I was on a jury was about ten years ago. I got called into a pool, but I thought I was going to be let off. However the last potential juror in the initial group of twelve was let go, and I my name was called. The defendant was acting as his own attorney and I was tempted to repeat the old saw, “The man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client.” It was clear, however, that the judge wanted to get on with things so I kept my mouth shut and sat on the jury. The trial was only half a day and I turned out to be right. Still, it was a good civics lesson.

We’ll see what happens this week.

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