Thursday April 15, 2004

Summoned to Appear (part 3 of 4)

[ I was Summoned to Appear for Jury Duty this past Monday, April 12. The story begins here, and continues with part 2. The third installment is below. ]

After the video, we were released to walk around until we might be called back. Our clerk pointed out that we should stay on the lower level. "I have a PA system. It's only on this floor. It's in the cafeteria and the bathrooms. If you leave this floor, I can't call you back. If you don't come back, it's me who's gonna get it. I mean, you too, but they'll yell at me first."

I wasn't convinced that this was an appropriate group to play on their better sense of nobility. I rather thought she'd keep people around better if she said "They will go after you and you will be fined". I mean, so some mythical person yells at the clerk? Why should a prospective juror care, especially if that gives him or her a head start? I suppose I'm getting cynical.

After the clerk explained that no one should leave the floor, a man approached the front. He wanted to go outside. "You're not supposed to". "But can I?". "The PA system won't be able to call you back." "But can I go outside?" "If you don't come back, I'm gonna get it." "But can I go?" "Just for a few minutes".

Then a young woman approached with the same questions, receiving the same answers. The conversation was strikingly identical the previous one. The young woman wanted to go smoke. The clerk heaved a deep, audible sigh. "Just for a few minutes!".

There were six or eight computers in the room, apparently connected to the Internet, so people could surf or play games while they waited. A woman approached the front... "One of the computers isn't working. Can I use this one?" (meaning the computer at the front desk). I sat in amazement as the clerk repeated, two or three times, that this was not possible.

A prospective juror asked if she could use the official Jury Assembly room computer. That would be the computer into which all of the juror paperwork was entered earlier that morning. And this woman is one of the people the video just told me were going to "use their common sense" to help decide criminal and civil cases.

I picked up my stuff and headed down the hall to try to find a better place to sit and wait. The cafeteria was noisy (and had Musak piped in). There was an anteroom with a small couch in the women's rest room; it was quiet, but people kept coming and, erm, "going". There was an area with tables beyond the cafeteria, but it was populated by people talking on the phone (cell phone at one end, public phone at the other). Finally, I headed back to the Jury Assembly room and found a chair at a table against the back wall

Beyond the temporary sliding wall partition, I could hear the sounds of the cafeteria. I unpacked my noise-canceling headphones, attached them to the iPod, turned on the music and commenced to read a book. The room reminded me of some vast airliner full of bored people, all of us going nowhere.

It didn't take long before our clerk made an announcement through the PA system (audible even under the Bose headphones). "All jurors report to the jury assembly room". A short while later, our clerk said "I'm going to take roll. Here is where I want you to answer loudly. I need to hear you. Answer yes, Present!" And she began calling names.

My name was second, so I could stop listening, but it was a somewhat fascinating procedure. The clerk tried to pronounce one or two names, apologized, and then began to spell anything she wasn't sure of. The last name she called was Z o r n o s a h e y m a n. She spelled it twice, without even trying to pronounce it. I didn't blame her in the least.

Two people didn't respond. She called their names over the PA system. They didn't arrive.

It turned out that these were the names of the 30 people who would be going upstairs. So now, she had to replace those two people.

"Please nobody leave the room. I'll have to create a panel of two names. Oh dear. This computer system is very difficult. Because two people didn't come back, I have to select two more people. Please don't anyone leave, I don't know if I will call your name until the computer selects two ore names."

A man approached the front to ask if he could leave the room. This was the same man who, earlier that morning, wanted to go outside. I was beginning to be less surprised by the distinct lack of sense in some of these people. This time, the clerk simply said "No" and went back to typing.

When she had the two new names, she called them out. It was gratifying to discover that both were present. In all this time, neither of the two absentees had yet arrived.

At that point, the 30 of us were told to go up to the 8th floor, courtroom 8D. So off we surged to the elevators at the other end of the hall... where we waited.

Tired of waiting, I took the stairs to the ground floor and asked a security guard where the stairs to the 8th floor were. He directed me. I (eventually) found the stairs and made it to the fourth floor where I decided to try again to catch the elevator. The elevator that opened contained people from the Jury Assembly room. Slow elevators.

We reached the 8th floor; I headed out of the elevator, checked a sign board that said 8D was at the far end, and headed down to the courtroom.

Summoned to Appear (part 3 of 4) - posted by Vicki at Thu, 15 Apr, 09:21 Pacific | «e»

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