Don’t Call Us, Juror

March 31st, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

grandj

Serve. Don’t serve. Serve. Don’t Serve.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know there was a tap to turn on and off jury service in this fabled commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In terms of being jerked around by a bureaucracy, my recent experience is likely not in the top 10,000 instances. Yet knowing there is a preprinted postal card anticipating goofing on jurors is disquieting.

I was summoned for grand juror service then abruptly unsummoned or desummoned or whatever. The summons arrived in late January and the forget-it card this week.

It’s kind of a big deal, at least in time commitment. It is for three months, not three days. Grand jurors sit in a box with 22 other citizens and have to call each day for 90 days to see whether they have service the next day.

I’m not at all sure the gossip compensation is adequate. You can’t talk about cases with anyone or even be around anyone who mentions them until things are totally resolved. Even then, you can’t discuss the details or deliberations without explicit personal permission from the judge. Harrumph.

Anyway, I’m not much for whining, but this gives me a reason. I didn’t fall in the list of exemptions. I am not old enough (70) or young enough (17). I’m not sick or disabled. I can speak English. I live in the country and won’t be away for a  year or more. I am a U.S. citizen. I don’t have a recent felony conviction. I’m not the primary care giver for anyone. They even waited a couple of weeks after the three-year period from my last jury service.

So, I steeled myself and OK’ed the gig. Then I did the details. It’s nothing like preparing to die, but there are those tedious tasks. I rescheduled a doctor’s appointment. I coordinated with other Left Ahead podcasters to cover for me and to begin moving the Tuesday 2:30 PM shows to different times (no small thing with guests and co-hosts). I did not apply for two possible contract writing positions which would start right before or right after the beginning of service. There was more; being an adult and parent is plugged in here and there and oh, over here too.

Then Monday, the form card from the Office of the Jury Commissioner read:

NOTICE OF CANCELLATION OF JUROR SERVICE

Since you were summoned, the needs of the court have changed and YOU ARE NOW NO LONGER REQUIRED TO APPEAR FOR JUROR SERVICE AS SCHEDULED. OUR SERVICE UNDER THIS SUMMONS HAS BEEN CANCELED.

This does not disqualify you from juror service for the next three years. If you are randomly selected again in future years, you must serve. Jurors who report to a courthouse as directed, ready willing and able to serve, are statutorily disqualified from further juror service in the Commonwealth for three years. This disqualification does not apply to you because you were not requried to appear for juror service.

Thank you for our understanding and willingness to participate. We hope your inconvenience was minimal.

In the greater drama of governmental incompetence and poor planning, this doesn’t really register. (I did, however, want to edit the card, including inserting the missing ready, willing comma.)

The randomly selected phrase also struck me. Every three years without fail I get a summons. I’m on a list and there’s nothing random about the timing.

From my previous experiences, I surmise that whatever big case was on tap for my grand-jury-that-wasn’t got a plea deal. Many of my regularly jury summons dribble off that way, with us attending, being seated, waiting in a room, and hearing that the judge worked magic on the defense attorney to extract a bargain.

In this case, I suppose they should have cut the deal long before a week prior to the jury seating. Brinkmanship must be mandatory in the judicial game.

I was dreading and looking forward to service. The gross and detailed inconvenience of it all is absurd. On the other hand, seeing the actual workings of the secret process of deciding whether the prosecutor has the goods to justify a trial is intriguing.

I may never know and that’s OK by me.

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