Monday, October 05, 2009

Post Mortem on Jury Duty

After years of being ignored by the courts in re jury duty, I recently received a summons to appear for said jury duty. The date the court in question had set for me to call in/appear was very inconvenient, so I called in and rescheduled using the court's automated system. Rather than postponing as long as possible, I picked the earliest date that I knew I could appear, as I never know where I'm going to be or what I'm going to be doing three months from now. In the future, knowing what I now know, I may do exactly the opposite. The jury, so to speak, is still out on that one.

As I stated above, I've not heard from any court regarding jury duty for several years. I have strong suspicions about what prompted the Los Angeles County Superior Court to send me my most recent summons, and things may or may not return to the status quo ante of my being ignored by the courts for jury duty in the future. Prior to this, the last court that I heard from regarding jury duty was California's Eastern District Federal Court, which sent me a questionnaire regarding jury duty when I was still in law school. Being a law student/certified student attorney at the time apparently prompted them to exclude me from future jury pools. State courts play by different rules, and I suspect that ambiguity about my place of residence is what kept them at bay for so long. That ambiguity was ignored by the Los Angeles County Superior Court when it sent out its most recent summons to me, but I had no particularly strong objection to showing up at the designated time and place, other than my innate distaste for being compelled to do so by The Man.

Being summoned for jury duty filled me with ambivalence, but I was not particularly motivated to get excused. Rather, never having performed jury duty before, I was (a) intrigued by the possibility of being involved in some real life courtroom drama in a way that I had never before experienced and (b) concerned about just how long the court would expect me to put my life on hold. Regarding (b), I allotted a minimum of one week and a maximum of two weeks before this would become an issue for me. Ninety-nine percent of the time this is apparently enough of a commitment, even if you are actually selected for a jury. As it so happens, my jury duty, such as it was, was limited to waiting to be called to a courtroom for several hours; about 2pm, those of us who had not been called to a courtroom and/or selected for a trial before lunch were sent home.

But for the fact that I had lost my jury summons - a blessing in disguise - I would have been calling in to the court every day for a week to see if they wanted me to show up. Instead, being unable to determine over the weekend if and when the court wanted me to show up, I showed up at the courthouse on the first Monday for which I might have been scheduled, and was processed along with all of the other people who knew they were actually supposed to be there. Even now I have no idea whether I was supposed to show up on that Monday or any other day that week. However, given my druthers in the future, I'd rather show up on the first day and serve my commitment/get an extension than be forced to call in/wait around every day for a week. Unlike other people, I do not have to be at the same place every day for work, and every day that I might be waiting around to be called for jury duty is an enormous inconvenience.

One of the early matters covered during jury orientation was requests for postponements. Apparently, these requests are routinely and repeatedly granted by the Los Angeles Superior Court for up to three months at a time, up to one year. This might be a quick and dirty way of minimizing the amount of time that you actually spend satisfying the court's demands on your time when it comes to jury duty. Not having requested a postponement, and having fulfilled my obligation for "one day/one trial," [pdf] I may hear back from the court as soon as one year from now. Had I requested an initial postponement some three months into the future, I could have continued to request postponements in three month increments, preparing myself for the possibility of an extended commitment of time at the end of one year. The jury's still out on which strategy would work best for me, but chances are that I will need at least one postponement if and when I receive a summons for jury service again, as I will probably have to find a date that fits in with my business travel plans.

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