Friday, October 22, 2010


The Joys of Jury Duty
By Edward Grinnan, October 22, 2010
From Guideposts
Jury duty.
The words strike dread in the bravest heart, right along with root canal and tax audit. Some people simply ignore the summons and risk facing the consequences (which include…what? Have you ever known anyone arrested for not appearing? Really?). Most of us show up hoping and even trying not to get picked. We hope and pray and have faith that we won’t be assigned to a trial. That would mean days down here.
By now you’ve correctly surmised that I am at jury duty, called to civil court in downtown Manhattan, where I sit and sit…and sit. No inspirational or uplifting stories here. Just people complaining about how much work they have to do and how mad their bosses are at them. Some just hate the whole idea of serving even if they have nothing else going on. Now there’s a positive attitude. I mean, this wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t so busy.
Okay, so it’s really not as awful as all that. First we got to watch a nice informative video with Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer (a three-time Guideposts cover, I might add) that actually is a pretty inspiring video, with interesting and even uplifting stories about the history of the jury system (I particularly liked the scenes where the archaic punishment of dunking was reenacted). Moreover the clerks and court officials are exceedingly diffident since they know how much people hate coming here…a positive attitude I appreciate.
Last time I was called I remember feeling dissed because I WASN’T put on a jury. Why bother going through all this for nothing? In fact working for an inspirational magazine like Guideposts can apparently get you disqualified. My colleague and positive thinking blogger Amy Wong says she was once rejected from a jury when the lawyer defending a large corporation learned who her employer was. “Oh, you work for that magazine that publishes all those real life David and Goliath stories, all those inspiring articles about people beating the odds and achieving their dreams. I don’t want you on my jury!”
Apparently that is not going to happen for me today because it looks like I’ve been—gulp—chosen, and I am sworn not to say anything about the case so I won’t. I have no reason now to complain about being rejected. Well, maybe the parties will come to their senses and settle before this goes any further.
The fact is, though, once I’m down here—and it’s only every seven years in New York—I become fascinated with the workings of the justice system, especially the human workings. What is more basic to human society than our search for justice? It is an amazing albeit confusing and imperfect system, and when I stop and force myself to think about it, contributing to the process can be a very inspiring experience. Because the system is made up of people, with all their strengths and frailties, trying to do the right thing. If ever you want to experience real life and real life stories, come to the courthouse.
Last time when I complained about not being picked for a jury, I said to a lawyer friend, “What’s the point?” He told me the point was that I showed up, and that alone helped made the system work, even if I didn’t get put on a jury.  “Just show up when called,” he said.
It’s either that or go back to dunking.

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