Friday, February 7, 2014

Jury duty was unexpectedly cool. Part 3

Now that I have lured you into this triad of posts with jokes.

If you look up jury duty online you will find a million articles entitled:

How do I avoid Jury duty?
Here is my answer: Reconsider some crap and have an attitude adjustment. 

   According to my childhood the phrase "attitude adjustment" is usually indicator for the fact that you are about to be hit by a parental unit and or friend of the family who is close enough that they are not willing for you to grow up to be a snotbratturdrocket. If you are lacking in parental units willing to smack you up-side the head ask a close friend for help[1]
     What you should do is not be attempting to avoid jury duty. A significant number of people in California do not respond to jury summons. It seems to be something close to a judicial apathy epidemic. The consistent jury dodging of citizens has resulted in courts stepping up their penalty game for no-show jurors. But punishment isn't why you should go. 
 "But Liz you didn't start off with a great attitude. If I remember correctly you started off livid that you were stuck on a jury and you proceeded to be inclined towards irresponsible and immature behavior[2] ." 
True, I did not start off with a phenomenal attitude and of that I am not proud. But I changed my attitude, hence the word "adjustment". I imagine that if you are put on a week long jury that you won't start off so happy, but by the end of it you might remember what I am saying here.

Yes but…[3]

I have some important excuses:
   I have a life. Yes. Yes you do. Dead people do not have to report for jury duty. The courts are considerate like that.
   I have a job.  you get to participate in the the justice system which was created for your benefit and works to your benefit everyday whether you notice it or not.
   This is boring. Some of it is. We spent a significant chunk of a day looking through someones pay stubs. I hate pay stubs. I don't look at my own pay stubs. That is boring. But these pay stubs factor into a bigger, important question, "Does this person owe that person 500,000 dollars?" That's a life altering question for these two people. That is a question that they have been waiting for three years to get an answer to. That is something that you do not get to be bored about.
   I don't like America. America kills innocent people, puts dictators in power and is generally considered the military bully of the world. We hold political prisoners in a fashion frowned upon by those concerned with justice and we excel at sticking members of our society into prisons.
Do you see the difference between the second and third sentences? Hint it involves the word "we". Am I solely responsible for these things? No. But I am as a citizen of this country a part of the problem, the solution, and the apathy which turns our problems to stone.
There are things that I don't like about America. That's why we serve to make this a better place.

Next time you get that summons letter, think about the opportunities you have: 

1. Serve. Power is easy, even Machiavelli can work with that. It might be hard to get but it sure is easy to want. When was the last time you wanted to serve? Why do you think the world is impressed with Pope Francis? Because the man wants to serve, even more than that, he lives to serve.
Here you are in a room full of random people with the opportunity to practice service and wanting to serve.

2. You have the opportunity to devote your time to help other people make important decisions. Other people have done the work of collecting evidence and excluding evidence that they believe is unfounded and might -bias your opinion. You get to sit here listen to stuff and help with a decision. Congrats.

3. Law is something that we benefit from constantly and pay no attention to. Yes there are certain laws that you don't agree with. But isn't it nice that if I hit you with my car we can settle these issues without a Hatfield and McCoy status family feud? Having certain rules that govern our society is a good thing. What an old person thing to say. I think I might be getting old.

4. Trial by jury is intended to protect individuals from the power of the government. It also gives people the opportunity to have a decision made by some average people. Judges do not exactly qualify as average people - in terms of income, education, or experience. You get to be in a group of average people - hopefully with a limited amount of bias but a wide variety of experience.

[1] Actually I am pretty sure that that if you have good friends and you say, "I feel this way but I should not." Your good friends (who have read Nicomachean Ethics, of course) will tell you, "feeling inclinations towards bad things, is a bad sign. You need to get your virtue together by not acting on those inclinations."
One of the other jurors said that they did not believe the character witnesses were really telling the truth. The other juror said something like: “Well I know my friends would lie for me – so.”
And I was like, “Oh... My friends wouldn't.” 
"I have better friends." I thought.  

[2] I would like to point out that "inclined to" and "acting on" are fortunately not the same thing. Though I did once jokingly hit myself in the face with the juror notebook while some sort of drama involving confusion between the words "snorkel" and "norco" held the attention of the judge, lawyers, and various witnesses. The aforementioned notebook was an important part of my week. We were at some point thanked by one of the lawyers for taking diligent notes. He was unaware that a substantial quantity of my note taking involved me writing out things  like: "yes we get your point already" and "this does not show what Lawyer 1 is claiming that it shows" and "objection. Profound jury suffering at the hands of this lawyers abominable rhetoric...your honor"

[3] "Yes but..." Is the most devious way of saying, "I agree with you ...but actually I don't" or "I am going to start out all subservient in an attempt to dupe you and then do whatever I want".  


  1. This is awesome. So many people complain about the legal system in our country but I think you hit the nail on the head about how it is *helpful* and what we can do to make it *better* rather than sitting around complaining "'Elp, 'elp, I'm being repressed" most people do with regards to the law.

    1. annnnd now I feel like quoting a bunch of Monty Python but I will refrain.