Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Privilege to Serve?

I received a jury summons awhile back and had to report yesterday afternoon for service.  After sitting in the small, dimly lit jury orientation room for over 2 and a half hours, and feeling quite claustrophobic, the court was finally ready for us.  Being treated no better than a common criminal, we were instructed not to use our phones, no texting, reminded of our duty to be here, the privilege it is to serve, and informed of what we would receive if we were selected to serve.  If you've served lately in California, you know you get a whopping $15 a day and .34 cents a mile, and that only applies once you begin your second day of service.  The mileage only applies to your one way trip to the courthouse.  For some reason, they don't feel it necessary to help pay your gas to get you home.

As we all marched over across the street to the courthouse together, single file, with our bright purple badges prominently displayed for all to see, I felt like we were being led back to our cells. When we were all finally seated, the judge introduced himself, the defense and prosecuting attorneys and the defendant himself.  He then went over all the "rules" which took him much longer than necessary. He couldn't repeat them enough, and kept saying, "you're going to hear me say this again and again." I kept thinking, "this dude really loves to hear himself talk" as well as, "if we are really this stupid and need you to repeat this stuff to us over and over again, are we really intelligent enough to judge this person and the outcome of his future?" Scary stuff.

Anyway, of course we didn't get a jury selected and we need to come back.  He said it could take four or more days just to select the jury. Big "ugh" here. I do realize in our democratic society that it is quite a privilege to serve on a jury, and heaven forbid, if I was in that situation, I would like to have that privilege bestowed on me.

But, seriously, can't the government see to it that the people are paid a wage that makes some sense?  Many of us don't have government jobs or work for employers that will pay you your regular wage.  Many of us are on our own and $15 a day is quite a deterrent when it comes to our willingness to sit on the jury.  Everyone seems to be scrambling to find an excuse, an out, and I can see why.  I myself kept creating scenarios in my head that I would present to the judge, hoping he would let me go.

It is a hardship to give up a week or two (or more) pay and it just seems to me that with what the government spends on everything else, they could at least reach in their pockets and lay a little of the green stuff on its jurors.

Treat jurors with the same respect that you want the jurors to provide the courts and then maybe this could work and be more of a win/win for everyone.

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