Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Civic Duty

Capitalized, of course.

So when we came home what was there waiting for me but that damned jury duty summons. And when I got round to phoning the 888 number they'd helpfully provided, I found it was too late to request a postponement. So, being a good citizen & all that, I left behind my "Sure, I'm a Marxist" (pix of Groucho, Harpo, Chico, & Karl) & big red star t-shirts, dressed in something approximating what I'd wear to teach , & shlepped the half-hour north to arrive at the Palm Beach County courthouse at (gulp) 8am yesterday morning.

I'd decided to be a good citizen this time around & keep an open mind at the voir dire phase (as opposed to last year's "yes, I have a terrible ingrained prejudice against ambulance chasers who mount suits on behalf of Eurotrash-dressed Palm Beachers against nice-looking south Asian doctors"); mind you, that wasn't going to keep me from telling them I don't trust police testimony because of the culture of mendacity in every law enforcement department I'd ever encountered – or that I really couldn't sit for a long trial, since yes, someone else could cover my classes, but then they wouldn't be my classes, would they? and then I'd have to waste precious class time reorienting students to the fact that Milton wasn't a plaster saint but a really deeply conflicted, maybe even psychotic fanatic, and that yes, I've got an open mind, but if you bring up Ted Kooser or Billy Collins in my workshop I will throw a book at you.

So I spent some 5 hours in an over-air-conditioned jury waiting room watching first The Living Sea, then Stephen Spielberg's The Terminal (guy gets stranded for 7 months in JFK due to passport snafus – terribly appropriate choice, but terrible movie), reading maybe 50-75 pages of Carlyle's Past and Present. Then, a half hour after we'd been called back from lunch, & a few minutes into the dire Will Smith vehicle Hitch, I & a score of others were called up for a jury – only to find, as we assembled, that somebody'd copped a plea, & we were sent home. So I didn't really get a chance to do my civic duty, even as I did my civic duty.

Maybe the only irritating part was sitting thru the introductory video by the droopy-dawg head judge, lecturing us on the precious right of trial by jury, which our Founding Fathers had fought for & which our brave boys & girls overseas were defending right now. I get the point, okay – but could you deliver it with just a shmidgen of affect? Like, make me believe you – this isn't a macroeconomics lecture.

And alas the whole business made me miss dropping P & D off for their first day at a new school. Damn you, trial by jury!


Ed Baker said...

how is it possible! you on a jury? a jury of the defendant"s peers? just next session
go in with a ladder and
when the judge asks you what you are doing

tell him : "I'm taking this to an higher court."

then you can go back to throwing books at Billy Collins

... whose Billy Collins?

since his name came up on another blog and I didn't know who he was...

I was once called to be on a jury at a robbery trial...
a 19 year old black kid robbed with a gun an Asian taxi-driver...

we were standing in the lobby waiting to be called in to be questioned as to our fit-ness to be on an "impartial" jury of this kid's "peers"

so I joked to this girl in a suit "How can I be this guy's peer.... I'm white...he's black?"

she was the prosecutor's
para-legal... needless to say

I was dismissed. they gave me a voucher for $10, which I cashed..

when I got to my car, there was a $22 parking ticket on the windshield!

E. M. Selinger said...

Just remember, Mark--that's ME you're throwing the book at! Well, one of me, anyway.

Brian S said...

Sounds a bit like my go at jury duty a few months back, only mine took two days. It was a capital murder case too, which means I wouldn't have made the jury since I won't vote to put someone to death, but the guy copped a plea so it never came up.