Who Am I To Judge?

So I’ve been called up for jury duty, or at least I have to report to the courthouse to be considered for jury duty, part of a great American tradition of allowing people to be judged by a group of their peers. I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers, although, really, I’m not sure who my peers are exactly. When they made me they broke the mold, and I wish I hadn’t still been in it, but that’s another story. This is actually the second time I’ve been called up for jury duty. The first time I was able to get out of it with the excuse that I had cancer, although I was asked if I could postpone my cancer for a later date. This time, though, it’s federal jury duty, which is not only a whole different ballgame, it’s a different league. First they sent me a letter. Then they sent me an email to remind me I’d gotten the letter. Then one day I was in a coffee shop and a guy walked by me and said, “Hey, don’t forget to report for jury duty,” because they not only know where I live; they know where I hang out.
I know most people are annoyed whenever they get called up for jury duty which is another reason I’m not sure I’d want to be judged by my peers—it doesn’t seem to work on the defendant’s behalf if their fate is being decided by twelve people who’d rather be somewhere else—but I’m kind of looking forward to it. It’ll be a break from my usual routine, I’ll hopefully get to hang out with some interesting people, and maybe even get a part in Twelve Angry Men, but updated and more gender-neutral, so it’ll be Eleven Angry People and me over in the corner saying, “Sorry, I know I’ve got my notes here somewhere.” At least I can be sure that if I have to serve on a jury and we’re all sworn to secrecy about the case I won’t have any trouble keeping my mouth shut. Admittedly I have trouble keeping my mouth shut most of the time but there are things I just won’t talk about and other things I prefer to talk about and unless the case involves a priest, a minister, a rabbi, a pirate, a dog with his foot in a bandage, a horse, and a grasshopper all walking into a bar I’m very unlikely to even want to talk about it, let alone spill what the stenographer heard. A friend I worked with once complained that I never seemed to know any office gossip and I was a little offended that it didn’t occur to her that maybe I knew tons of office gossip. Maybe I was privy to a million little secrets whispered to me in the privy by people who mistook me for someone who cared. Maybe the reason no one ever heard any office gossip from me was because I don’t go around blabbing things told to me in confidence. That’s the thing about secrets: you never really know who’s good at keeping them until you tell one to someone who isn’t.
To get back to the subject of getting out of jury duty a guy I work with told me he’d been called up for jury duty six times, which makes me wonder if he pissed off some petty official in the justice system or if it was just random chance that his number came up so often. Or maybe there was something about his name that made someone think he’d be an excellent jurist or that just drew attention, a hypothesis I could test by creating an alter-ego named Horatio M. Worthyperson and seeing if he gets called up for jury duty. Anyway this guy I worked with told me he always took a book with him and never got picked to serve. “So they don’t want readers,” he said. I find it hard to believe he was the only person there passing the time with a book and I also know he’s a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft so I suspect it was what he was reading more than that he was reading that made the lawyers pass him over.
The fact that most people want to get out of jury duty seems to me to say something really positive about human nature: however much we judge each other on a daily basis most people, given the opportunity, would rather not be responsible for deciding another person’s fate. Or maybe that says something really terrible about human nature that most people, given the opportunity, would rather skip out on exonerating the innocent and holding the guilty accountable. Or maybe it says something entirely different about human nature—that we’re lazy, or, alternatively, that we want to be good citizens but realize the law is complicated and nuanced and worry that we’re not up to the challenge of treating a case as responsibly as it deserves. Or maybe it’s another possibility that I haven’t even thought of. Yeah, I can tell I’m gonna be really popular with my peers.

 

15 Comments

  1. Ann Koplow

    I judge this post peerless, Chris, and I hope people don’t judge me for wanting to be on a jury and never, ever making it. I wasn’t reading at any of the jury selections but I’ve been told that lawyers don’t want social workers in the mix. I guess they assume we’d be too something. Maybe not angry enough?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Why wouldn’t lawyers want social workers in the mix? If I ever had to be judged I’d want you to be on the jury and I’d want more social workers to be there too because they’d be conscientious and understanding.

      Reply
  2. Use Your Thinkball

    I do love this post. The one time that I got called to jury duty, my boss sent back that I was “Essential Personnel” and could not go, which made me feel a little important. I ain’t gonna lie.

    I would like to think you know all the office secrets, but know that in my husband’s case that would not be true. He is the least gossipy person, but partly because he is oblivious and unobservant. Scuttlebutt free. He would be the world’s worst detective. The whole company can be talking about the scandal of someone’s divorce for months, and he will go up that person (WHO SITS BESIDE HIM) at the office party and ask innocently where her husband is. He’s that guy.

    Miss you! Super busy and I haven’t been very commenty. The privy/privy was brilliant ~Linda

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Being called “Essential Personnel” is definitely a great thing. I think it would be very motivating although it would also be a lot of pressure. That’s probably why I really do miss most office gossip: I’m paying more attention to my job than worrying about peoples’ personal lives. Yeah, I’m that guy who doesn’t notice someone’s out on vacation. That might actually make me better at serving on a jury. I won’t know anything about the people around me and all my focus would be on the case.

      Reply
  3. mydangblog

    I love this post–so witty! I hope you DO get to be on a jury–your posts about it would be amazing. I got out of jury duty once by telling the judge that I had to prepare my students for their international exams. He rolled his eyes but dismissed me. It wasn’t a lie, but man, I did NOT want to be on a jury in my town.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Preparing students for international exams is a pretty darned good reason to get out of jury duty and I’m glad the judge appreciated that the children are our future in spite of the eyeroll. And while I know I won’t be able to talk about the case itself I am studying up on the massive library of lawyer jokes.

      Reply
  4. Tom

    The reason most people don’t want to do jury duty is the same reason crime in big cities can occur in broad daylight but no one seems to notice: most people don’t want to be bothered.

    I was chosen for my first jury duty last year and I thought “great!” I’ve always thought it would be fun to do one of those…

    Six weeks later, we found the woman guilty and she went to jail for seven years. There was nothing fun about missing so much work, or condemning a woman to a sentence like that. But she did a bad thing and someone died and the law was pretty specific in her case.

    Incidentally, the same case had been tried some months before to a hung jury. My jury, of which I was a finalist for foreman before being beaten out by a guy with a book, found the woman guilty so quickly we had to shuffle papers for an hour to look like we considered it more deeply. We had only one dissenter, who said, in tears, “I know she’s guilty but I don’t want her to serve a lot of time,” which isn’t how the jury thing works, by the way.

    I guess that was my long way of saying “go for it, everyone should do it … once.”

    P.S. The coffee shop part had me laughing out loud. 😂

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Well that’s kind of a wet blanket. Seriously, though, you do raise valid and important points. I know it’s an important civic duty and, contrary to the impression I might give, I do take it seriously and will be responsible. Among other things I’m brushing up on lawyer jokes because, man, there’s a ton of ’em out there.

      Reply
  5. Allison

    I have been called once, when I was 23. I didn’t get on the jury. But the arrogant lawyer who said voir dire that he had never been put on a jury (because nobody wants lawyers on a jury) was selected, and everyone in the jury pool applauded. The judge laughed. It was awesome.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s pretty amazing although I would not want to be on a jury with that lawyer. Ideally I’d be in a jury with a lot of thoughtful, considerate people.

      Reply
  6. grace

    I would be afraid to serve on a jury with you, because I think you are way to comically entertaining and I think other jurors would enjoy your company so much that nothing would get decided and then we would be there for weeks and so on and so on.
    Personally I have always avoided jury duty because it’s in my nature to play devils advocate all the time. In a debate I will always pick the side with the smallest number

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If picked I will definitely try to be considerate and not comical so everyone can get out of their jury duty as quickly as possible, especially if we have to be sequestered because I wouldn’t want to waste anyone’s time. But I’m also a guy who always has a soft spot for the underdog so even if we’ve got somebody obviously guilty I’ll try and see it from their side.

      Reply
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  8. Kristine @MumRevised

    My dog is not particularly good at writing letters, or I might be considered essential personnel. My teens wouldn’t even know I was missing as long as I left the keys for the car.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m surprised being Scooby’s caretaker isn’t enough to get you out of jury duty. However I can understand the desire to do your civic duty. Or get a break from your family.

      Reply

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