Thursday, January 17, 2008

Civic duty

Ever since I moved to Berkeley, I have received a jury summons annually. The other times when I called in, I was told that I was not needed and that my service was complete. This time when I called in on Monday night, I was told to call back between 11:00 a.m. and noon the next day. I kept my fingers crossed. It didn't work. My summons was to appear in Hayward. When I called in on Tuesday, I was instructed to appear in Fremont -- by 1:00 p.m. Have I mentioned that I work in San Francisco? And yes, Berkeley and Fremont are in the same county. Just at opposite friggin' ends of the county. I was not pleased. Because $15 and $0.34 per mile really make up for missing a half day of work.

I've actually had to report for jury duty before -- something like ten years ago in San Francisco. This time I was prepared and had brought a book. We were finally called into the courtroom at 2:00 p.m. And then the brain death started to set in. Because silly me had forgotten to pack a lunch on Tuesday. And by the time I called in, I had just enough time to make it from San Francisco to Fremont. So I didn't have lunch. I guess it was a good thing I stored up all those calories on Sunday. And the judge droned on and on about the process in a really warm courtroom. I kept thinking, "Please hurry up and call my name so that I can get this over with." Because there's something about having taken criminal law and criminal procedure that attorneys usually don't like in prospective jurors.

But they didn't call me until the end of the day on Tuesday so there was only enough time for me to answer the background questions. The judge then informed us that we would be returning on Wednesday for voir dire. Great! Another half day gone from work. (Court in Fremont is in the afternoons.) And sure enough one of the first questions I was asked on Wednesday was if I had taken criminal law and criminal procedure before deciding to leave law school. This was after a brief discussion about why I had decided to leave. And so after the attorneys finished their questioning, I was the second person excused when they began the challenges. (The first was an attorney.)

And I guess that's why I find jury summons to be rather annoying. Because I know that generally once the attorney's find out that I attended at least some law school, they don't want me to stick around. But I guess it was like a mini-vacation from work. And perhaps my absence over the last couple of afternoons will make them appreciate me even more.

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