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Monday, March 7, 2011

Jury duty

A few years ago I was called for jury duty. We were all shepherded into a room at the courthouse and told briefly about a civil case we might be chosen for. The plaintiff claimed he had gotten into an accident because he had been distracted by the bright lights of a store display, and was suing the store.

One by one the potential jurors were brought into a separate room with a lawyer for the plaintiff and a lawyer for the defendant. When it came my turn to be interviewed, one of the lawyers -- I'm not sure which -- gave me a beneficent smile and asked, "Well, what do you think of our legal system?"

I replied, "If you could narrow the scope of that question a bit, I could probably give you a more intelligent answer." I paused, wondering if he would narrow it. When he said nothing, I continued, "If you're asking if I think we live in an overly litigious society, the answer is yes. But if you're asking me do I still think I could judge this case fairly on its own merits, the answer is also yes."

I was being completely honest on both counts. Of course, I also knew that if I phrased it that way, the plaintiff's lawyer would not want me on the jury.

They then asked me to wait outside in the corridor for a moment. I sat there, completely confident that I would be disqualified, and practically chortling at my own slyness in escaping a boring trial.

Sure enough, a few minutes later one of the lawyers poked his head outside, and said, "It's okay, you're dismissed."

I recently received a notice for jury duty again, and was supposed to report this morning. I drove down to the Norwalk court house again, my mind awhirl with all the clever things I could say in order to get myself disqualified again. I went through security, and reported to the appropriate office. The clerk came up and told me that jury duty had been canceled that morning. I had driven all the way down there for nothing.

Evidently I was supposed to have phoned the courthouse the night before to see if our services were still required. No one else was there, which meant that everyone else had been smart enough to phone ahead of time; I was the only one who hadn't bothered to read the notice carefully.

You're never stupider than when you're preoccupied thinking about how clever you are.


Anonymous said...

Great post,
I felt the same way during my last jury duty call, except I thought of being as outrageous as possible during the interview process. The case was a stabbing and the lawyer asked me " what if the defendant was a cop " My reply was " I don't give a F*ck who it is, if their guilty then send them the chair and fry em" Well...I ended up getting picked for that much for being outrageous.

Mad Dog

PS. It takes a real man to poke fun at himself, great job John.

John Craig said...

Mad Dog --
They must have seen you as a guy who would stick up for what's right.

Not sure I fit most people's definition -- or even my own -- of a real man, but thank you.