Monday, December 1, 2008

Jury Duty

I spent my morning at the Tarrant County Courthouse for Jury Duty. It's the first time since I was pregnant with Michael that I have gone down there for this reason. That was the first time I had ever been called. I forget which child it was, Alyssa or Ben, probably Ben, but I was pregnant and got called again and used the reason of having children under the age of 10 without reasonable childcare to get out of serving. As I was sitting there today, that rule really surprised me. Does this mean that Jonathan should be able to be left alone all day if I was to have to serve? He is almost 10 but I can't imagine leaving him home alone all day for me to be on a jury. That just seems absurd. I thought there was an older age, say 12, when they are in junior high at least.

Anyway, it was very interesting. I drove to LaGrave Field where they have free parking if you are serving jury duty. As I drive into the parking lot, I see this woman running frantically towards the bus cover. Keep in mind, it is freezing and windy outside and we live in Texas. Most of us were not aware what was in store and completely unprepared for the weather this morning. We had to wait for at least 15 minutes for the bus to show up. In that time, "Peggy" (the running woman) has begun a conversation with anyone standing within earshot of her. Then she introduces herself (hence why I know her name) and then proceeds to ask everyone standing around her what their names is. As if it is a game, she then repeats everyones name very proud of herself that she has remembered us all. Everyone is very amused as it is making us laugh and forget about how friggin' cold we all are.

Soon, a bus pulls around the corner and we all go towards the spot where the bus will stop. Actually, Peggy suggests we all head that way and so - we all follow Peggy. Guess what. It wasn't our bus. So now, we are all standing outside, out from any cover whatsoever (not that where we were was any better) waiting and just hoping and praying for another bus to round the corner at any second. It takes another 5 minutes, at least, but it certainly felt much longer! As we all load on the bus, I choose the seat right behind Peggy. She meets Russ, who is sitting next to hear, and then begins to introduce everyone around them and again, proud of herself that she has remembered everyone's name.

Now, I was told that the bus would drop us off "right at the courthouse" a.k.a. two blocks away and you will have to walk. I am totally fine with walking. I just wish I had been prepared for the wind cutting through my sweater and shoes with no socks. I am so used to getting in my car in my garage, driving to work, and getting out of the car in a parking garage, never being out in the elements. I was just thankful it wasn't raining. Getting into the courthouse is another issue. The security is like at the airport, except there is very little space inside to wait so the line went outside quite a ways. Luckily, one of the ladies on the bus had been here several times and showed us where to go for a shorter line. Did I mention I had no socks on? Yeah, so I am dreading taking my shoes off and wait until the last possible second so I can run through the metal detector and get my shoes back on ASAP.

It's like a bunch of cattle following each other. No one really knows where they are going, but we all hope we end up in the right place. By this time, it is about 8:15. We were supposed to be there at 8:00 but, of course, there are so many people in there they don't really care - as long as you show up. We go in, get our card scanned and venture to find some place to sit. I end up sitting on the floor in the back room and wait for instructions. One odd side note: my brother, Eddie, was also summoned for jury duty today. He was there but I didn't see him until I was going to my jury pool.

The instructor had a great sense of humor. She has found a way to make her mundane, every day the same job fun. So we sit and wait for our name to be called. When it's called, we go get in a line and get told which court to appear in. I think the only other time I was there they didn't need that many jurys so I was told to wait a while and then let go. I know I never made it to the court room. Peggy is sitting over with a couple of the other ladies from the bus stop and once I am gone to the court, I never see Peggy again. I would LOVE to know if she got picked and how that all worked out.

So I was in a District Court on the 6th floor. I'm not sure if I can post here the name of the judge, but he was very funny and made his job and what we were enduring an enjoyable morning. The case was a personal injury case involving a car accident and unpaid medical bills. I have a feeling the plaintiff lost because the law is not really on her side, but I don't know. I was jury #26 and apparently they try to pick 12 out of the first 24 people. Jury #25 was the 12th juror picked. I barely escaped getting the afternoon off. However, I would love to be on a jury - if it was an interesting case, of course. I love that kind of thing.

It was very interesting to hear people give amazing excuses for wanting to be excused. They didn't fall under any of the expemptions of dismissals that are allowed, so they go to the court and give the judge a story as to why they think they aren't fit for the case. Juror #24 was REALLY trying hard. It worked. He got to go home. He dismissed three women for medical reasons right there on the spot. Honestly, he just didn't want you there if you didn't want to be there. He was giving everyone a chance to go home. If I needed someone on my side, I would want it to be that judge. At least it made for an interesting morning.
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