Thursday, September 11, 2008

what they don't tell you about jury duty

Yes, I'm serving jury duty today. And given the date, fulfilling civic obligation feels like an appropriate use of my time. (By coincidence, my husband reported for service 7 years ago today in this building. He was told by the guard there wasn't jury duty that day. "Why not?" he wondered. "You must be the only guy in New York who doesn't know," hooted the guard. To which my husband, a lawyer, undaunted, returned: "Hey, Mac. I just got off the subway. They don't give news updates on the Number Six.")

In fact, jury duty in Manhattan is far less onerous than it used to be. Jurors commit to two days instead of two weeks which used to be required. Plus, free handouts! A dandy guide to restaurants in the area and a 26 page booklet (also available online) that tells you everything you need to know about serving. Except:

1. Check the exact address on your summons. There are multiple courts and if you're cavalier about noting the street number, as I was, thinking that of course you know where the City Court is, you could end up in the wrong building, blocks away from where you're supposed to be.

2. Don't bring a camera. "Photographic equipment" (except for cameraphones) has been banned from court buildings since 2001. I did, in fact, bring a camera today. Which somehow made it through body check and the x-ray machine. Which is why I'm writing to you at lunchtime instead of exploring restaurants in the area, not wanting to risk smuggling my contraband Leica past guards again.

3. Be early. If your call is for 8:45, be there before 9 if you want to get a seat within plugging distance of a power outlet. (Thanks to your tax dollars, NYC courts are now equipped with relatively-reliable wireless.) 300 jurors, 15 power outlets--only 10 of which are in working order.

4. If you don't care about power outlets (say, if you're Amish) don't worry too much about being late. One woman breezed in at 10:30 and, though they gave her a hard time, they still let her sign in, allowing her to fulfill her civic duty and qualify for a full day's pay--$40.

5. Bring plenty of riveting reading material. Especially if you don't get a seat by an outlet. I've been here five hours, most of which has been spent sitting in the same red leatherette chair. Unless you need the downtime to catch up on your sleep. As the man behind me, a snorer, is doing, much to the annoyance of upright citizens around him.

6. Just tried to post this and discovered Another Very Important Fact: free WiFi here won't allow you to post. You can surf blogs and wordpresses but a mask header prevents you from being able to sign in to a site. Proxy browsers don't work either. Guess I'll have to wait to update you on the scintillating goings on here. Like the reading preferences of a woman in the next row who appears to be wearing a hat made of tinfoil. (Sue Grafton.)


Anonymous said...


Back in the 80's I was called to jury duty and arrived several minutes late. After I sat down a stunning young lady came in and sat next to me. We talked for awhile, hit it off and the next day went to lunch. Upon returning to the waiting area I got called on a case and was bused to a different area of the complex. As the justice began to weed out potential jurors (the accused was a person of color) several potentials blatantly stated their personal dislike for such individuals. The justice then asked if any of the remaining potentials had any other reason that they could not serve, I replied "yes, your honor". Asked what my reasoning was I said I'd rather not say in open court - so I was asked to approach the bench. Like an old EF Hutton commercial the Ass. DA and defense atty. cocked their ears as I told the judge that I just met a fabulous woman in the jury pool and not having got her number I was afraid if I got called on this case I would never see her again. Infuriated, the judge said "Get Out" as the people in the wings could not imagine what indiscretion had occurred. Two weeks later I met the girl in mid-town where she worked in a bar and was so inebriated I made an ass out of myself.

Anonymous said...

I was on a jury once and we were bused off to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Queens and some hotel by JFK airport during deliberation. It wasn't even that a large case (murder, but nothing publicized). Most people voted 'guilty' and I think the rest did just so they wouldn't be sequestered another night. Oh, and an older man clogged up the only toilet in the impanelling room.

Ad Broad, oldest working writer in advertising said...

@studio maven What a FABULOUS story. Well told. Thank you.

@auntie christ Ewwwwwwww