Kind of on the same level as a stinky diaper, isn’t it? Wrinkle your nose and hope someone else gets to do the honors.
Since my kids have broken the age barrier and I can no longer claim the mommy excuse, I’ve received two summons for jury duty. One resulted in my serving on a criminal court jury, the other in serving on a civil court jury. But guess what–I like doing it! Let me say that again. I like serving on a jury.
Why? Here’s my top five reasons.
- Human drama. Jury duty cracks open my personal cocoon, forcing me to interact with life outside my suburban bubble. I’ve seen the consequences of a horrible decision alter the life of a young man on the verge of adulthood. I’ve met two cherubic little boys who lost their innocence way too early. I’ve grieved with a family still in mourning four years after the death of their beloved father, and I’ve sympathized with a doctor fighting for his reputation. The courtroom is an arena with winners and losers, although on some occasions, there are no real winners. It’s reality without all the show.
- Legal drama. Lawyers have their own style. Some are laid back, exuding confidence in their case. Others act more thoughtful, as if they’re trying to figure it all out along with the jury. One attorney, still practicing law at age 79, seemed to alternate between blustery and bored, to the point of falling asleep during his opponent’s testimony. The courtroom is a stage worthy of its own awards for acting.
- Educational value. The courtroom can also serve as a classroom, teaching me things I might never have known. Do you know what a hospitalist is? Do you know what it means to say a hernia with a small bowel obstruction is reducible, or incarcerated? Or why corrective surgery may be withheld for a time? Are you aware of the procedures that take place when a child is suspected of having suffered abuse? Hopefully, I’ll never need this knowledge but I find it interesting nonetheless.
- Jury chemistry. Take twelve people from different parts of the county who hold nothing in common with each other and put them together in a room for several hours a day. How much time elapses before their attention transfers from their electronic gadgets to each other? How soon do they identify with each other as a group? Are they a serious group or do they laugh together? Friendships that develop in a jury room may not last beyond the trial, but a positive sense of bonding occurs that makes serving on a jury unique and enjoyable.
- Evaluating judges. Ever wondered about all those judges on the election ballot? Any idea who most of them are? Are they qualified? Capable? I now know two judges. I have no idea what their political affiliation is, but they’ll receive my vote because I’ve seen them in action. What better way to determine someone’s competence?
Both times I’ve served on a jury, I came away with one strong conviction. The system works.
Yes, it’s a pain to disrupt your daily responsibilities and routines in order to spend long days in a courtroom. I understand the difficulty for families with young children, and people who don’t get paid unless they go to work. Those are legitimate excuses. But the system works only because we, the citizens, participate. I’m proud—no, privileged to live in a country where we have a say in the justice system.
Jury duty? Count me in.