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Jury Duty Again…0 for 2 Now…

Three years ago, I posted about receiving my first ever jury duty summons and the poopy experience of sitting around for hours, just waiting, then being chosen, then waiting some more in a hallway, and then being released since the case was settled out of court. It was an unfulfilling 5 hour process.

Summoned Again

Well, I was summoned again for yesterday. This time I didn’t have a ton of jobs and emails waiting for me, so I went in with a happier disposition.

Sadly, it was even less fulfilling than before. Same process but I didn’t even make it past the first room this time. Just woke up at 6am, got dressed in business casual and ate breakfast as requested, did the hour commute into downtown Houston, got scanned and whatnot to get in, waited in the exact same seat for 3 hours, and was released since they had everyone they needed with the first two rounds of people they pulled out. Oh well. At least the $6 check they are sending me will cover the exactly $6 I paid for parking again…

Just FYI

In case you have never been summoned, here is the general process (at least for Harris County, Texas).

  1. Receive summons.
  2. Send back form if you aren’t eligible for jury service (they have a list for you).
  3. Send back form if you can and want to claim an exemption (they have another list for you).
  4. Reschedule for another time in the next 6 months if you just need to delay it. But the rescheduled day will be the same day of the week and at the same time as your original summons. You can do this twice in 6 months. I haven’t rescheduled either time since I’ve been in town.
  5. Fill out the bottom of the form in advance to save time before you go.
  6. Pack correctly for the day (see list below).
  7. Leave early enough that you can still make it if there’s an accident in front of you. Happened to me BOTH times now…luckily, I left for a normal 30-40 minute drive about 1 hour and 15 minutes in advance because I know driving during the morning commute just sucks.
  8. Park, find the assigned room for your juror number, and find the seat that looks the best to you. You’ll be there for at least an hour if not 3-4 hours before you are selected or released.
  9. Watch for announcements and pay attention to the juror numbers they are pulling so you don’t miss it if you are called.
  10. If you get on a panel, then go through voir dire to see if both lawyers let you through to the jury itself.
  11. If you get on a jury, follow the judge’s instructions as perfectly as possible. The average trial here is less than 3 days but can last for weeks or even months if it’s one of the big ones. 1-2 day civil suits and criminal trials are the most prevalent here though. You sometimes can get selected, hear the case, and make a decision all in the same day.
  12. If you aren’t needed, they “release” you and you are put back in the general random lottery for summons again. I got summoned in June 2012 and again yesterday so far. Lots of people in Harris County.

Things to Bring if You Are Allowed

Every court is different, but here is what we are allowed to bring that makes the waiting nicer (check the paperwork that comes with your own summons):

  • Your summons
  • Your cell phone
  • Laptop (they even have free WiFi now – unsecured but nice)
  • Remember to charge your phone and laptop as much as possible since plugs are few and far between.
  • Book (not crafts – safety scissors and knitting needles are confiscated at the metal detectors. Found out from a school teacher next to me that couldn’t cut out some sort of project like she wanted)
  • Jacket since it can get cold inside
  • Snacks, a sandwich, and a bottled beverage. Or use the $1.50-$2 vending machines or slightly overpriced café. I brought a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a few chewy granola bars, and some gum. Forgot my bottled water on my kitchen counter, so I bought a $1.50 bottle of root beer.

My Personal Gripe

Overall, I am 100% behind the idea of jury duty and taking part in our civil rights. BUT, I think the system could be a billion times better with not a huge amount of extra work.

They could have online check-ins from home like airports that are require confirmation within 72 hours before your service date, have built-in 25% padding for no shows, and then less than a quarter of the people commuting to the courts would have wasted their time. But that’s just me wanting efficiency.

I do appreciate the people I interacted with today since they were helpful, kind, and patient (even with some pretty stupid questions being thrown at them all day). And I don’t mind being summoned to be on a jury of someone’s peers. I just cannot stand the fact that this is the second half day of my life that was just wasted for no real reason. 🙁

How have your jury duty experiences worked out?

6 thoughts on “Jury Duty Again…0 for 2 Now…”

  1. SherryH

    Not totally wasted–you got blog fodder out of it. 😉 But I think that, like you, I’d be pretty annoyed if I showed up, spent half the day, and didn’t even get to do anything.

    I don’t remember ever being called up for jury duty. My husband has received a couple of summonses, but he’s always had to beg off because of work. He’d have like to participate, too. My mom was summoned in Michigan probably a decade ago, and her case actually went to trial. She said it was interesting being part of the process.

  2. Ronda

    One year ago, I was called for jury duty for a criminal trial. A teacher had been accused of raping some high school girls (he was ultimately acquitted). The jury picking lasted six days. We started out as a pool of 300 people. By the last day there were only about 40 of us who never had our names called. The first day was interesting. After that, it was like nails down a chalkboard. During voir dire the lawyers asked all the prospective jurors the same things over and over and over and over. Boring as hell. So for six days all I did was sit and watch. We could not have any electronic devices in the courtroom itself so watching and paying attention were the only options. (The judge went full-tilt ballistic on one guy who tried to talk to his neighbors during the jury picking. He called him to the center of the courtroom and yelled at him non-stop for about 10 minutes. The rest of us were terrified to do anything after that.) We were only allowed to be in the jury room or the courtroom, so our entire group of prospective jurors had to share the same single-seater toilet. However, I do have to say, it was an interesting insight into the whole “trial by a jury of your peers” thing. And the judge kept impressing on us that participating in a jury was the most democratic process inside a democracy, which was a pretty good point. It doesn’t get more “by the people, for the people” than a jury trial. The weight of knowing that you could send someone to prison felt very heavy. I got a big old fat $132 for 6 full days. And you have to report that as income on your taxes. Interesting experience that I truly never hope to have again.

  3. Anne

    I have been called for jury duty a number of times. I served once on a trial and it was fascinating. I was the lone holdout for “not guilty” for the defendant.

    But here you can contact the courts by phone the night before and they will tell you if you need to show up at all. You do this for one week. So on my last two jury summons I have not even gone to the courthouse, just called each night and was told to stay home. Same for my husband. Works quite nicely.

  4. Crystal @ BFS

    @SherryH, haha. Blog fodder comes from anywhere, lol. And the courts here won’t let you miss because of work-related items. 🙁

    @Ronda, I think you summed it up amazingly well with “Interesting experience that I truly never hope to have again.” I can’t sit still without talking or sleeping for more than an hour or so…that’s a problem…

    @Anne, that’s awesome!

  5. AmAnda

    Perfect timing! I have my first jury summons tomorrow. It’ll be boring but I’d rather sit with my book than be at work haha

  6. Bella

    Jury duty… how you are suppose to find innocent or guilt when you are not allowed to consider anything not directly in front of you. I always go back to a program by one of the news shows a few years ago when they interviewed people who either convicted or acquitted people. They do their own investigation and had the juror watch their segment and asked the question – had you seen all of this what you have still decided they way you did? Most of them said NO!

    We are way past the way jury duty is done today – I could not sit there and find guilt beyond any doubt if I could not look into it myself…. too many innocent people going to jail, some even languishing on death row for years….

    And who exactly is your “peers”? “a person who is equal to another in abilities, qualifications, age, background, and social status”

    Thanks for posting because this makes us stop and think…

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