Civic Duty

Yesterday I had to serve jury duty. I don’t usually mind serving jury duty but this time I found it to be inconvenient. When you own your own business, anything that interrupts the flow of work is inconvenient.

I’m a firm believer in our justice system. When it is used as intended, it’s fair and protects the innocent from persecution. But as with any system open to interpretation, less than scrupulous people have found loop holes in which to exploit to their advantage. Those are the stories that make the news.

Los Angeles County moved from a 10 day service obligation to something called “One day, one trial”. You either sit, waiting to be called, in the jury assembly room for one day to meet your obligation, or sit on one trial. Either way, after you meet your jury obligation, you’re dismissed for at least one year and one day. It’s not a bad gig.

They’ve really cracked down on the reasons for dismissal from jury duty. They feel that giving one day a year shouldn’t cause too much of a personal burden. I guess I agree. No longer can you be excused for being self employed, a student, for health, religious, or moral reasons. They’ll dismiss you if you’re dying (or dead), but that’s about it.

They’ve also granted a pay raise. For 30 years, the day rate was $10 plus one way mileage. Now it’s up to $15 and mileage. BUT, you start collecting your pay after day one. Talk about exploitation. $15 doesn’t even cover the costs of the books I read while serving.

The sheer boredom of waiting to be called or dismissed is mind boggling.

So what does one do to avoid the boggling? Well, if one is me, you look around at what is kindly referred to as “A jury [pool]of one’s peers”.

You know those programs designed to scare kids straight? I think that they should skip bringing them to jail to see what life on the inside would be like and just take them to see a jury assembly room to glimpse upon the faces of those that would sit in judgment of their crimes. It was enough to keep me from entering the world of crime…

I viewed my time serving my civic duty as forced time to relax. I brought no computer or technology gadgets. Just a book. Well, actually two. I read them both. I can get a lot of reading in with no telephone to interrupt or computer wanting my attention.

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