Some call it jury duty selection. But it feels more like day-jail with a bad commute.
I’m heading to day three of the jury selection phase, in which dozens of us sit in a court room for hours while a slow-talking and very deliberate judge interviews one citizen at a time. Those of us who are not being addressed by the judge are allowed to sit there doing nothing.
We can’t talk.
We can’t use our smartphones.
We can’t read.
We have been ordered to pay attention to the judge’s conversation with each person.
I have not been this far into jury duty since my smartphone addiction became severe. At this point in my life, sitting motionless for hours, staring straight ahead, while my unattended professional life starts forming a death spiral, is extraordinarily uncomfortable. And so totally unnecessary.
Juries should be chosen by special jury-selecting lawyers with some notes about the specific case. There is no compelling reason for fifty people to watch one citizen at a time talk to the judge. For hours. Spread over three days.
This feels like welfare for lawyers. Those lawyers sit there, pretending to take important notes, while the meter is running. $$$$$$$$$$.
For no good reason.
About a hundred citizens wasted one to three days for this one trial. So far, 95% of that wasted time is due to a poor system, designed hundreds of years ago. None of that inefficiency gives us better justice.
On my first and second days of jury duty I blogged positive thoughts about the value of experiencing this important civic duty. But on day three (still not assigned to a trial) I no longer think that. If you serve on a jury today, you will end up hating your inefficient, lawyer-bloated, money-wasting government, and that isn’t good for anyone.
Lawyers will never change a system that is designed to pay them for sitting in chairs doing nothing. Things will only change if citizens stop showing up for jury duty. And unfortunately, because this problem only bothers each of us a few days ever few years, and the risk of not showing up seems high, no one is invested enough to fix it.
But I ask you this question: Have you ever heard of a person getting arrested for not reporting to jury duty selection?
Imagine how many people forget their jury duty selection date, or don’t get the notice in the mail, or can’t make it for some legitimate emergency that day. Are they all in jail now?
I doubt it.
I am not encouraging you to break the law. But it is a fact that if everyone stopped going to jury duty, the system would change. And it should.
It is also a fact that the system will not change on its own.
Have any of you Americans reading this ignored a jury duty summons? What happened when you did?
Update: Before you ask, the comic is already written. Wally will get called to jury duty. But it won’t run until Sunday Jan 10, 2016. (The Sunday comics have a longer production cycle. The daily comic is closer to a month out.)
Update: By weird coincidence, an employee of the courthouse mentioned in a spontaneous hallway conversation that I would not believe how many citizens simply don’t show up for jury duty and there is no penalty. But he also mentioned that California is planning to put fines in place for that situation. That can differ by state.
I wonder what the fine will be. I would have paid $500 to skip those three days of jury duty and attend my business interests instead.