Jury Duty

by Finn

I don’t think we’ve ever discussed jury duty here.  I’ve had some recent experience, having been called, and sitting through a trial as an alternate juror.  This was my second experience with jury duty; my first was over 20 years ago, when I was seated in the jury box, but was the defense’s first peremptory challenge.

What has been your experience with jury duty?  Do you think it is something to avoid, or to you look forward to serving?  Please share your jury duty stories.

My Mom’s jury duty story:

My mom had never been called to serve until she was retired.  One night, a sheriff’s deputy drove over to her house to personally serve a jury summons, to which my mom responded along the lines of, great, I’ve always wanted to serve on a jury, and now that I’m retired I can serve as long as it takes, which totally flummoxed the deputy, who’d never had that sort of reaction.

So she shows up for the trial, makes it through the preliminary screening, gets seated in the  jury box, and…  was the first peremptory challenge.    She was never called for jury duty again.

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92 thoughts on “Jury Duty

  1. I had a great jury duty experience. It was all so fascinating. The rules of evidence, the police interrogation, the physical evidence, it was like an episode of Law and Order acted out in front of you in real time.

  2. I also know a few people who have been grand jurors and that seems like something super fun to do when you retire.

  3. I would love to be on a jury sometime. I’ve never been called. DH and my dad were part of the same jury pool for our county (~1 million people). My dad wasn’t on the jury but DH was.

  4. I was on a jury in a criminal trial when I was 19 years old. I was home in Boston for the summer, and I took 3.5 days off from my summer job to serve. It was a really terrific experience, and one that made me appreciate our justice system, flawed though it might be. The defendant was being charged as an accessory to armed robbery. I was really impressed at how seriously all the jurors took the whole thing, irrespective of our race, age, or background. We were all very aware that our decision could have a huge impact on the defendant’s life. We ended up acquitting — the prosecutor didn’t prove his case sufficiently, and there were some inconsistencies in the testimony provided by two police officers.

    Since then, I have received several summonses, but have only had to show up in court once (and I wasn’t seated on a jury that day). In all other cases, I was notified a day or two before I was supposed to show up that jurors weren’t needed that day after all, and that I didn’t need to go to the court house.

  5. I was on a jury in a criminal trial when I was 19 years old. I was home in Boston for the summer, and I took 3.5 days off from my summer job to serve. It was a really terrific experience, and one that made me appreciate our justice system, flawed though it might be. The defendant was being
    charged as an accessory to armed robbery. I was really impressed at how seriously all the jurors took the whole thing, irrespective of our race, age, or background. We were all very aware that our decision could have a huge impact on the defendant’s life. We ended up acquitting — the prosecutor didn’t prove his case sufficiently, and there were some inconsistencies in the testimony provided by two police officers.

  6. Since my experience at age 19, I have received several summonses, but have only had to show up in court once (and I wasn’t seated on a jury that day). In all other cases, I was notified a day or two before I was supposed to show up that jurors weren’t needed that day after all, and that I didn’t need to go to the court house.

  7. Rhett — I received a grand-jury summons when I was working in BigLaw. I had to be “on call” for duty for about a month, but I never ended up having to go in. I would have been fine serving on a grand jury back then, because my employer would have paid me my regular salary for as long as I was on jury duty. But being self-employed now, it would be a huge burden to have to spend all that time away from work. But I agree it could be a really fun thing after retirement.

  8. I’ve spent many a day at the courthouse not being called to serve. I’ve been called to the panel several times, but I am always dismissed for cause, because I have enough conflicts that both sides want me gone (lawyer, victim of a crime, related to a public defender, etc.). The last time I even made the panel was for a federal grand jury involving child pornography; it was a good thing I was dismissed, because DD was pretty young then, and I had an immediate emotional response that I worry would have kept me from being objective (then again, pretty sure “mom of young child” was a contributing factor in why I was dismissed anyway).

    I would love to serve on a jury and see things from the other side. DH has served several times — once criminal, once tort — and has enjoyed it. He really enjoyed his last one: it was a lady suing the city for injuries she sustained getting off a bus, based on things like the bus pulled up too far from the curb. She went through her whole case, and the defense lawyer was very patient — and then at the very end, he whipped out the video that every bus has, which includes like 7 camera angles, which completely disproved everything she had said (that she was paying attention and not carrying anything — video showed she was talking on her cellphone and carrying armfuls of packages, etc.). It was just a masterful dismantling.

  9. i have been called for jury duty several times, but only once have a been in the jury box. At that point, I knew the defendant, knew the victim, knew the arresting officer and knew the story of the crime. It still took a long time to excuse me. Part of living in a small community.

    I have been called for grand jury twice and served once. Grand jury is pretty remarkable. Basically, we had the ability to investigate any county office. I think grand jury is an integral part of a functional democracy.

  10. I’ve never made it to the point of being questioned by the lawyers. The only time I was called out of the jury pool, there was some commotion in the courtroom and the judge dismissed all of us.

    I have been asking the state senators and reps to increase juror pay. It’s $50 a day and hasn’t been raised in 20 years. This is the first employer I’ve had who doesn’t pay the regular salary when people are on jury duty, so last time I was called I would’ve had to take PTO or been out hundreds of dollars for even one full day of serving.

  11. “I have been asking the state senators and reps to increase juror pay. It’s $50 a day and hasn’t been raised in 20 years.”

    I got $30/day. My employer did make up the difference.

    I agree that jury pay is too low. IMO, it should al least be minimum wage, which locally would be a bit over $80/day.

  12. When DS was in kindergarten, he got a summons. I was kinda looking forward to accompanying him to the jury pool, but given how much we were paying for his school, we decided to ask for him to be excused from serving.

  13. My niece received a summons when she was about in the 4th grade. She was really disappointed that she didn’t get to serve, because the $30/day would’ve been a lot of money for her.

  14. I was called to serve on a jury as soon as I got my citizenship. It was a great experience. I found that there was very little to disqualify me from being selected. We had to decide if the defendant had violated his restraining order to stay away from his girlfriend and mother of his child. He was found sitting in his car keeping the appropriate distance but she could see him when she looked out of her apartment and he had no business being there. My fellow jurors were a great cross section of society and definitely gave the case a lot of thought. We ultimately found the defendant guilty. At the time of our verdict we couldn’t see the defendant’s history and it didn’t enter our judgement. Later we found out that he had a conviction for armed robbery but was turning his life around. It was tough to balance one person’s freedom against another person’s safety.

  15. I’ve been called twice. The first time was when I was in biglaw and it was an attorney’s fees case. I made it up to the box but kind of shrugged when asked if I could be objective and then the judge dismissed me. The second time, I was #1 to be selected (ugh) but luckily that case settled at like 11:30 am right before they were going to call us up. It would have been a 4-week med mal trial. I would totally like to serve when I am retired, but not before then, too much money out the door.

    DH got the postcard once, but then his service got cancelled the day before when he called, which apparently still ‘counts’, but he hasn’t been called since then.

  16. I got a jury duty notification about 20 years ago, a week after I moved to my current town. I called and told them I had just moved and was still in the process of changing my address. They said OK and I’ve never been called again.

  17. I served on a civil case. It was during the Iraq war. I was originally called for a criminal case where a guy chopped up body parts and left them in Tompkins Square Park. I was lucky to get out of that one because the criminal court building in Manhattan is nasty. The elevators are always broken and the criminals are in the same elevators.

    There are several locations for civil jury in Manhattan and they all have different rules about lunch and serving. I’ve served in the Bronx too and it’s not easy to get to the court. It’s near Yankee stadium and it requires an hour commute by bus. Ugh. NY used to call jurors every two years, but now it is six. I’m glad because the same juror pool is also used for Federal court. Westchester, Bronx and Manhattan peeps are used for the federal court in lower Manhattan. For me to get there would cost a small fortune in parking, peak hour trains and subway. Also, there are absolutely no cell phones allowed. One judge got them banned. So annoying because that is a long day if your child or family member has an emergency. The federal court in Westchester is much smaller and does allow phones.

    Grand jury in NYC is a nightmare. 30 days and there are no excuses. You can be 8 months pregnant or dying and they make you serve. The courts are so busy that you do have to go everyday and sometimes the days run long. I’ve had to be the person covering in the office for someone on a grand jury and it’s not fun. If you have time, it can be fascinating even though many cases are drug related.

    The civil case that I served on involved a guy that fell down stairs while delivering beer. Hurt his back and he wouldn’t settle. I’ve been picked for medical malpractice when I was called in Westchester, but I was fortunate that it settled.

  18. Like LfB’s DH I served on two juries in my 2-week (10 day) stint when we lived in LA, one criminal (drunk driving) and one civil (slip & fall).

    Just the same as NoB everyone took the job/responsibility seriously. There was none of the ‘let’s just convict/acquit and be outta here’ you hear about on TV shows, etc. We acquitted in the drunk driving case (chain of custody of the evidence was broken) and we found for the defendant in the slip and fall (she truly slipped and fell due some wetness/liquid on the linoleum floor the store had but the store had a well-documented process showing they inspected the floor frequently for such things and took immediate action when they were aware of them PLUS the woman was wearing heels with the metal nail-head exposed to the floor).

    It gave me quite a good look at how competent everyone generally is. Coming out of it, I gained and still have quite a strong favorable opinion of the ‘jury of one’s peers’ concept.

  19. I think they should pay you to serve AND pay for transportation. My in-laws have to serve at a court that is 40 miles from their house because Long Island is actually very long!!!

  20. Lauren – I served on a grand jury in Brooklyn. Two weeks, very hard to be excused. Lawyers used to regularly be excused. No longer.

    It was fascinating. Not my area of law at all and very much like Law and Order. Lots of drug cases. In NY each expert report describing the drugs and related paraphernalia has to be read into evidence. You can’t just submit the report. That got old. There was one he said/ she said sexual assault case. The defendant and victim both testified. Unusual for a grand jury. The more serious charges were dropped but the case proceeded on several misdemeanor charges. There were two murders and one attempted murder. The victim in the attempted murder charged walked in, showed us his scar (his throat had been slashed) and we all quickly agreed the prosecutor definitely had enough evidence to proceed to trial. I will never forget that scar!

    What sucked about it was I basically did my day job during breaks and at night the entire two weeks. Otherwise I really enjoyed it.

  21. I’ve been called once and spent two days sitting at the courthouse waiting to tell them I was way too important to serve. Unfortunately, they never asked me :(. We got paid around $12/day, which was not enough to cover downtown parking. I honestly didn’t mind the idea of jury service, but the logistics are really difficult. I was jealous of all the people who were retired or quietly working from their laptops. I found out after the fact that I could have called out for jury duty (at my workplace) instead of trading my shifts away and using my days off for it. My employer even continues to pay! I have never heard of a doc that gets regular pay for jury duty – for most of us it is loss of >$1000/day and really a scheduling nightmare.

    DH got called when I was a medical student. At the time, he made around $13/h and jury duty paid <$10/day. He missed 4 days of work. We did not have a 4x8x13 ~$400 buffer in our budget – it was very stressful. That money had already been spent even though it hadn't shown up in the paycheck. We weren't in dire straights – we had parents we could fall back on. However, I have a lot of empathy for people who miss hourly work due to factors beyond their control.

  22. Our city courthouse was recently built so it is quite comfortable like being in a doctors office. You can take your laptop in and work while waiting. It makes serving on a jury a much more pleasant experience. However, at the end of the day after I went home, I felt out of sorts in a strange way. My routine was disrupted, I couldn’t talk about the case but yet couldn’t leave it behind.

  23. “I think they should pay you to serve AND pay for transportation.”

    ITA; it sucks that they don’t pay.

    For my service, they did pay for parking and mileage, or if I’d caught TheBus, they’d have paid bus fare. The reimbursement for mileage and parking was almost as much as the pay.

  24. I think they should pay you to serve AND pay for transportation.

    ITA.

    I would love to serve on a jury but I don’t want to deal with the disruption and loss of pay. They need to make it more manageable for people.

  25. “Also, there are absolutely no cell phones allowed. One judge got them banned. ”

    That’s totally out of touch. So no Lyft or Uber to the court, and I imagine many people might get lost getting there without google maps, especially if they rely on that to identify which trains/buses to take to get there.

    A more reasonable approach would be to have cell phone lockers for the jurors just outside the courtroom.

  26. It is amazing that one judge can have so much power. My friend works as an attorney for the federal government and she said that is the only reason that cell phones are banned in that courthouse building. It’s the only building with that ban. She said the rest of the courthouses just ask you to keep your phones in your bag or pocket.

    Another interesting tip from the same friend is to ignore the questionnaire for federal court. She said they usually only send it one time. If you don’t send it back, they won’t send it again or call you. She said they have absolutely no way to prove that you received the survey since mail gets lost.

    It doesn’t work for local jury duty because they tend to keep sending a request.

  27. I’ve been called four times and served on two juries (both criminal cases). Both times I was impressed with how seriously everyone took it. I’m glad I had the opportunity to serve and would definitely recommend it if you have the opportunity. To me, the right to a jury by your peers is one of the most important rights in our country. I totally understand people not being able to serve because of hardship reasons – but it saddens me when I hear of people (for whom it wouldn’t be a hardship) trying to get out of jury duty and I can’t think of the right way to phrase this – but being disrespectful about being called for jury duty.

    I think jury pay is only $10 a day here – plus a bus pass. I know the Courts have proposed increasing the rate. The challenge is that raising it to a more reasonable amount ($100 a day?) would cost millions every year. I’m guessing for King County it would be an increase somewhere in the $30 – $50 million range annually. My guess is that for most places to increase jury pay (which I support) would take a special tax measure. But having the rates be so low means that juries are not representative and are only retired people or people whose employers will continue to pay their salary while they are on jury duty.

  28. King County has a 2 day/1 trial system. You show up for two days. If you’re not appointed to a jury, you’re free after two days. If you are appointed to a jury, you only serve on one trial. Most trials are only 3 – 4 days long (there are always exceptions – the attempted murder trial I served on was two weeks). So in terms of time commitment for most people, King County’s system seems pretty reasonable (except for the $10 daily pay).

  29. But having the rates be so low means that juries are not representative and are only retired people or people whose employers will continue to pay their salary while they are on jury duty.

    That’s what I noticed as well. It was mostly city/state employees, college students, retirees and those from large employers who paid those on jury duty.

    One solution that popped into my head was a refundable tax credit equal to 1/250th of you AGI for each day you were on a jury. But then I thought it would be easier to just cut everyone a check, rather than make everyone jump through yet more hoops.

  30. A very amusing thing was people giving answers at jury selection which they thought would get them disqualified but then they found since everyone couldn’t be excused the bar was lowered and unless there were serious disqualifiying issues they had to serve.

  31. I remember my interview the judge and lawyers. They called me up to the bench and asked:

    Do you hate black people?
    Me: No.

    Do you think the cops always tell the truth?
    Me: No.

    Take a seat in the jury box.

  32. My last jury experience was bad. I was a spectator.

    My husband’s niece, who has tons of problems as you know, was working as a waitress in a local restaurant. She and the other restaurant staff were drinking, and then she gave two of them a ride home. On the way, they stopped and had another couple of drinks, and one guy left. So she gave the other guy a ride to her house because he was wasted. He was asleep, and when she woke him up, he freaked out and started slamming her head against the steering wheel and dashboard. Then he got out of the car and staggered off. She called the cops, got photos of her bloody nose and bruises, went to the E.R., had medical records, etc.

    The prosecution was so sure they could get a conviction that they dragged her back to Colorado after she’d gone to another state. I went with her to court. Her testimony was okay. And the jury, full of white male bozos, let the attacker off the hook. His idiot defense lawyer said exactly nothing other than “So you had been drinking and driving, Ms. Niece?” which was instantly met with “Objection!” “Sustained!”. But the jury decided that if you’re driving drunk apparently it’s just peachy for your co-worker to slam your head into the dashboard of your car.

    Fuckers. There’s more, because the restaurant was a client of DH’s, and there was some further discussion and stuff that I can’t go into. DH did what he could. But it really soured me on jury trials. Of DH says you should always avoid a jury trial at all costs because juries are radically unpredictable.

  33. I’ve seldom been called and never been required to report — in both cases in which I was summoned, the case settled or was otherwise resolved without a jury.
    DH has served several times, though he was able to put off his academic-year summons until the summer. Universities don’t typically have programs in place to replace a professor who has jury duty, so he was fortunate to be able to work that out.
    In this area, the courthouse is a no-cell zone. And no lockers. I have no idea how people deal with that issue. Lockers would be a great idea IMO.
    When I had young children, there were a number of well-publicized cases of nursing moms being summoned and forbidden to bring their infants to court. My attorney mom friends and I all hoped to be summoned and get to be dragged off to jail.

  34. The juries here are not just full of retired people. My DH served on a jury in June. I’ve been called in Manhattan, the Bronx and Westchester. The range of people included college age to retired folks. Many areas do not allow you to call in the night before to check in, so you have to show up and it is a very wide range of potential jurors.

    I did everything I could do to get out of a jury that involved a moving company. It was about ten years ago, and I said everything I could think of during the void dire to get out. It didn’t work because EVERYONE had a bad experience with a moving company.

  35. I was called twice in RI. Once I called to ask for a new date because I was asked to serve on a date I had to proctor an exam. The second one I went to court and sat for a 1/2 day. I think it was during my crunch time after my dissertation defense before graduation. I went there , worked on some stuff, read, and panicked because I was fearing being called onto a jury. I had few days to submit paperwork for graduation, so if I got called to a jury, I would have missed my window. That didn’t happen. I sat for ~1/2 day and was dismissed. No pay and the parking was free. So I spent my time delivering paperwork and making sure I could graduate on time.

    I do want to serve. But I’m pretty sure I have enough conflicts that they don’t want me…

  36. “Of DH says you should always avoid a jury trial at all costs because juries are radically unpredictable.”

    So the TV show “Bull” is well bull? :)

  37. We had a juror who couldn’t be convinced easily. We all had to agree and it took some doing to convince her. She wanted this and that information but we had to work with the documents we had, testimony from the arresting officer and had to go by the judge’s instructions. Ultimately she agreed. It was a good challenge because it forced us to go over the case and defend our decision.

  38. I seem to get called over and over and over. For a long time, I was able to get out of it because i had small kids and was working part time. Then, I finally had to serve. It was a sex abuse case, pretty horrid. I did not enjoy the process. I felt that the system was disrespectful of the jurors. We were the bottom of the totem pole and even had to pay for parking while serving. Much of the time was wasted with us sitting in a hall waiting. The trial took 2 weeks but could have been done in 3 days, from my point of view at least – the lawyers probably see it differently.
    Because of that, I didn’t have to serve again for some number of years but still kept getting constantly called. My nightmare scenario would be to get called to serve in the NY Southern District, because it is a real trek into lower Manhattan, the trials tend to be long, and you are not allowed to even BRING any electronic device. That means going into Manhattan without even a phone to call your kids on. It is very draconian. I have been called there a few times – was able to get out of it because of having a kid under a certain age, but now I can’t do that any more. I do not understand why the NY Southern District is so retro about electronics.

    I was called most recently at the beginning of September, with FIVE DAYS NOTICE!! It was the beginning of the semester, and we already had lots of faculty on overloads because one person went out on medical leave 3 days before the semester started. The notice said that to defer, I had to give a week’s notice, and it was already too late. My chair nearly had a heart attack. However, I went into the online deferral system, and it let me defer even though I was officially too late. Unfortunately, I couldn’t defer to next summer, so I chose my spring break and warned the chair that they might have to find substitutes for me if I ended up on a trial that went longer than spring break.

    Everyone I know who has been called to jury duty has ended up on a trial, so it seems like there is little room to wiggle out here. I also notice that some people, like myself, get called frequently, and others never get a summons. Why is that?

  39. I didn’t relish the idea of serving on a jury when I was working and I don’t relish it now that I’m retired. It’s a duty plain and simple. I remember a retired acquaintance who was just thrilled to serve on a grand jury because it was something interesting to do. Yeah, okay.

    Lauren’s comments about NY were informative. For a period of about 20 years I was called to jury duty about every three years. Meanwhile other people around me were rarely called. While I had to show up and was questioned every time, only once was I impaneled. But then that case was settled before any trial.

    When I was a SAHM and my kids were young, jury duty was a major deal. Sometimes I felt like taking my kid to the courthouse or just escaping in the afternoon to pick her up at the bus stop. I can see both sides to this, but seriously how do single parents handle this?

  40. “I also notice that some people, like myself, get called frequently, and others never get a summons. Why is that?”

    Yeah, that’s my question, too. I’m in the same boat.

  41. I should note that the time I served was in the Westchester County Court, where they do allow cellphones (at that time, though, no other devices), and when I was summoned most recently, it was also Westchester. I am hoping that if the NY Southern District summons me again, I can tell them that I am supposed to serve in Westchester in March. I would far rather serve in Westchester, where I can bring my phone, than in Manhattan.

  42. MM, I would love to serve on a jury in place of those, like you and DH, for whom it is a real burden. My guess is that, even if I got called and was in the jury pool, I would be booted for my legal background, which isn’t nearly as common here as it was in the DC area. There is a relatively narrow window of time during which people don’t have child/work/elder caregiving issues but are also physically healthy enough and able to get themselves to court.

  43. “Of DH says you should always avoid a jury trial at all costs because juries are radically unpredictable.”

    I think that varies depending on your position. If you are the plaintiff or defendant, or their lawyer, and have a strong case, then I agree. But if your case is weak, I think you have a better chance to confuse a jury into a favorable verdict than a judge.

    This reminds me of my kids’ debate competitions. It was often frustrating for them because the judges, largely parent volunteers, would often seem to not understand what the kids thought were very clear, logical arguments.

  44. “I also notice that some people, like myself, get called frequently, and others never get a summons. Why is that?”

    My DH, age 55, has never been summoned for jury duty. Not even once. I, OTOH, have been summoned so many times that I can’t remember the specifics of all of them.

  45. I’ve been on 3 juries for the 4 times I have been called. Civil case was medical malpractice and I was alternate 2, which was awful because after sitting in the jury box for 10 days I didn’t even get to weigh in on the deliberation. At traffic court, I ate a heavy lunch (lasagna) at the cafeteria so was nodding off during the trial, which was embarrassing. Last year, it was a capital murder trial (he got life). I’m not sure why I get picked each time, but I guess I have the look they want. Being a lawyer and having medical professionals in the family did not help me get out of the trials. Last time I was called, it was about 15 months after the last time (missed cutoff date by about 1 month). Since that was last year, I expect to get a new summons shortly. The murder case was interesting….everyone on the jury were confused that the defense attorney was barely putting on a case. I knew he was doing alot (excluding evidence, etc) because we never started before 11 am, despite getting there around 8. One time we had lunch before we were let in to the courtroom. The judge and lawyers came in to answer questions after the verdict. It was the first case of many for this guy who had been robbing and murdering illegal immigrants. He had a few teardrop tattoos.

  46. “Universities don’t typically have programs in place to replace a professor who has jury duty”

    That seems pretty irresponsible.

    Imagine you’re a student, getting deeply into debt, and the prof for the class that’s a prereq for most of the upper level classes in your major gets called and ends up having to serve on a multi-week trial, and the college has no plan to replace that prof.

  47. ““Universities don’t typically have programs in place to replace a professor who has jury duty””

    I think this may be pretty common across jobs. I don’t think my company has a policy in place if a key staffer gets called to a multi-week trial.

  48. “I also notice that some people, like myself, get called frequently, and others never get a summons. Why is that?”

    In MA you have a 1 in 10 chance of being summoned every year. If I’m doing the math right you have a 34% of not being called in 10 years.

  49. “Universities don’t typically have programs in place to replace a professor who has jury duty”
    Um, how are they going to do that? Professor X teaches Advanced Machine Learning – is the department going to maintain a pool of people with that expertise who can be called in at a moment’s notice??? Can you imagine how much they would have to be paid? We have enough trouble getting adjuncts for the entire semester, with several months notice. We had one who was supposed to be teaching a grad course bail on us 2 weeks before the semester started – man, did we scramble. They found somebody, but that person would only teach in Manhattan on Saturdays at 9am – we had to change the course schedule, find space in manhattan, and notify the very upset grad students.
    Big universities will often have grad assistant s that can cover sections of lower level courses in a situation like that, but many schools have no grad assistants and that doesn’t work for upper level courses anyway.

  50. When my husband got called onto a 5 week trial (medical malpractice, yawn), his company made him work at night. Yeah, I know they aren’t supposed to but I think it is common. He told me that one of the other jurors, who was FDNY, was working night shifts in addition to his jury gig.

  51. I had to work at night too. I was very fortunate that my office was downtown, and I had a 15/20 minute walk to get to the court. Lunch was typically 1 1/2 – 2 hours so I could go easily get to work during long breaks or when they dismissed us for the day. NY is very cheapo and they won’t pay you for jury duty if you have a full time job.

  52. Ugh. my earlier post got eaten. I served a two week stint on a grand jury in Brooklyn. It was fascinating. Not my area of law at all. The only thing that sucked was that I had to do my real job during breaks and at night.

    Lawyers used to be easily excused from jury duty. Not anymore.

    It was a lot like Law and Order. You could tell that some of the prosecutors were baby lawyers just cutting their teeth. A lot of drug cases. That got old because in NY the lab reports have to be read into evidence, you aren’t allowed to just submit the report. One he said / she said sexual assault case. The plaintiff and defendant both testified. Two murders. The most interesting case was an attempted murder. The victim came in, showed us a scar on his neck going ear to ear. A guy had attacked him with a knife, sliced his carotid artery and he nearly died. Slam dunk – proceed to trial.

  53. Rhett, when I was in college, one of my professors died about three weeks into the semester. They just cancelled the class and we all had to scramble to get new classes, beg the professors to let us add the class late, and pull all-nighters catching up. It was a drag.

  54. We teach overloads. Which is horrible and exhausting, and not fair at all for those on the tenure track, because they still have to get all their research done on top of the overload. That is what happened this semester when one faculty went out on medical leave – his courses had to get reallocated. I have had to teach overloads, once when I had a grant to do research from an outside agency. I couldn’t get a lot of the grant work done as a result. That is why my chair nearly had a heart attack when I said I had been summoned to jury duty in 5 days – she already had so many faculty on overloads that she didn’t know who else to tap. You have to understand, too, that the faculty who get asked to do the overloads in many cases he or she has never taught it before so it is a lot of extra work.

    This semester, we also had an adjunct who ended up in the hospital for several weeks. I took on one of her courses for those weeks. It was no fun because I had no clue what she had covered or what kinds of assignments she had been giving. I couldn’t even get access to her LMS site, so I was kind of flying blind.

  55. At the school where my husband taught, one of the professors keeled over from a heart attack a week into the semester. As it happened one of the tenure trackers had just given birth a week prior and was out on maternity leave. Yep, you guessed it, they made her take the professors courses, with a week old baby.

  56. Of DH says you should always avoid a jury trial at all costs because juries are radically unpredictable.

    As the saying goes, do you want your fate decided by people who aren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty? :)

    In Colorado, its one day or one trial, and then you’re not eligible to be called for two years, I think it is.

  57. Mooshi, sounds like you’re running at or above capacity, and jury duty is just one of many eventualities that could cause havoc.

    I’m wondering how common this is. For a CS department, I’d guess it is very common; we’ve discussed in the past how difficult it has been for most colleges to staff their CS faculties.

    But I’d guess most other departments don’t have the same difficulty staffing up, and should be better able to plan for such events.

  58. This discussion brought to mind that during my second semester, the prof for one of the introductory classes for my major went on medical leave a couple of weeks or so into the semester. This class was the prereq for the class that was a prereq for many of the upper level classes, so not being able to take it could’ve potentially set many of us back a semester.

    Fortunately, our department chair stepped in and took over the class. Not only did that keep those of us in the class on schedule, but he was a far better teacher. The original prof left me with the impression that he considered teaching a necessary evil, and that he didn’t really put much effort into preparing for lectures, and was largely teaching to a text with which he hadn’t really familiarized himself.

  59. “Mooshi, sounds like you’re running at or above capacity, and jury duty is just one of many eventualities that could cause havoc.”
    Yes, this is a problem, and is a problem everywhere. But something you may not realize is the degree to which academic programs are staffed by adjuncts now. That is the real problem – if half or more of your classes are being taught by adjuncts, there are not that many fulltimers available to take over someone’s class.

  60. I’m thinking that with so many reasons for a prof/instructor/adjunct/GA to be unable to teach, on short notice, e.g., jury duty, medical issues, family crisis, there should be some sort of generic protocol for a generic loss of prof/instructor/adjunct/GA.

    I would think there should be some financial buffer to allow for the hiring of an adjunct or GA if there is one capable of taking over the class(es).

  61. WRT jury pay and transportation and parking costs, it seems to me that since those who actually serve bear a disproportionate burden of the costs of our judicial system, the rest of us who don’t serve should pony up to at least enough to cover basic transportation costs, and at least minimum wage.

    I’m curious whether there’s ever been a case of someone claiming jury duty is in violation of minimum wage laws.

  62. I tend to see jury duty as just a way to run our legal system on the cheap. I know they make this big fuss about jury duty being an honorable civic duty, but the reality falls far short. From the nasty summons with frightening verbiage about “penalty of law”, to the arcane and petty restrictions on electronics, the absolute dismissal of concerns about disruptions to people’s lives, and the way that jurors time is wasted in the process – all of this tells me that mandated jury duty is just a way to get cheap labor.I think if they had to pay jurors a real wage for their service, the system would be more respectful of jurors, especially their time. If jury duty is really an important civic duty, then the judicial system needs to treat jurors in a way that reflects their importance.

  63. I recently received a jury selection questionnaire for the first time ever. I’m not aware of any family members who have ever served on a jury. This discussion prompted me to look up the jury selection stats for my province (I’m in Canada) – about 1.5% of the population is selected every year. It’s interesting to compare this to the comment upthread about MA jurors having a 1 in 10 chance of being selected. I have a general assumption that trial by jury happens much less frequently in Canada than in the U.S., but I don’t have any stats to back that up.

    If the timing was right I’d probably enjoy serving on a jury and getting an inside look at how the whole system works.

  64. Interesting: Most civil cases in Canada are tried by judges without a jury. However, anyone charged with a criminal offence for which there can be a prison sentence of five years or more has the right to a trial by jury

  65. I concur with Mooshi that the jury system does not value people’s time, much like the medical system or the military. Our local county does OK- they call too many people, but it’s pretty easy to defer, you can defer more than once with a good reason, you can get out of duty for childcare or professional reasons and ~97% of the time, you just have to check in by phone or web the night before to find out you don’t have to show up.

  66. MM – from your comments, it sounds like New York’s system could definitely use improvements. You’re making me appreciate places that either have a 2 day/1 trial or have a call-in system. In jurisdictions outside Seattle/King County, most Washington counties have a call-in system similar to what WCE described.

  67. Mom got a jury duty summons here in Denver, but I wrote a letter for her saying “I have dementia and I’m incontinent” and they said “Okeydokey, never mind then!”

  68. Westchester in theory has a call in system, but the reality is, when you call, they tell you to come in. And how does the 2 day/1 trial system work? If you end up on a trial, it could be 3 weeks or 3 months.

  69. My sister got called for jury duty about 4 year ago. The way it works in her area is that you have to call in once a week for 5 weeks. They could pull you in during any one of those weeks. But the worst thing is – you can’t go anywhere during those weeks. She had to cancel her vacation plans as a result.

  70. On jury duty – I seem to get called all the time but have never been picked for a jury.

    Our county has a good system. If you get called but it’s a bad week for you, you can call and schedule a week to serve, so long as that week is within a certain time frame (6 months?). That helps take the randomness out of it and lets you plan ahead. Then you’re assigned a jury number and if your number comes up that week, you go. If not, you’ve fulfilled your duty. It’s very reasonable.

  71. On jury duty – I seem to get called all the time but have never been picked for a jury.

    Our county has a good system. If you get called but it’s a bad week for you, you can call and schedule a week to serve, so long as that week is within a certain time frame (6 months?). That helps take the randomness out of it and lets you plan ahead. Then you’re assigned a jury number and if your number comes up that week, you go. If not, you’ve fulfilled your duty. It’s very reasonable.

  72. Lark, are you guaranteed you will only serve a week? What happens if you get put on the 5 week medical malpractice trial?

  73. “You’re making me appreciate places that either have a 2 day/1 trial or have a call-in system.”

    Both places I was summoned used the call-in system. Both times, it saved me half a day, letting me know a day in advance that I didn’t need to show up until after lunch. It saved the court system some money because my parking reimbursement was lower.

  74. Lark, that does sound much more reasonable than many other systems. Do they cover transportation expenses too?

  75. Our system is ‘call in after 530pm the day before your service is to begin.’ At which time you get further instructions that can be
    ‘you’re not needed (tomorrow); call in again in 24 hours’
    ‘report at 9am tomorrow’
    They’ll make you call in for 5 days and if by then you’re not ordered in, you’ve completed your service.
    If your employer does not pay you during jury duty, the court will pay you $40/day you actually have to show up.

  76. I’ve gotten called for jury duty once. It was almost 20 years ago so electronics weren’t really an issue.

    It was Good Friday, so I went to the jury room and sat around. Then was released after lunch. No one ever got called to a courtroom. Probably most of the judges had taken the day off.

  77. Completely unrelated to today’s topic, but following up from last week on updates. My new position I’m moving to is a promotion after all, so that was a pleasant surprise!

  78. And how does the 2 day/1 trial system work? If you end up on a trial, it could be 3 weeks or 3 months.

    Right, that’s the “one trial” part. Here it’s one day/one trial. If you have to go down (you call in or check online the day before to see if you have to go), and you don’t get put on a jury, that’s your one day. If you get put on a jury, you serve the duration. That’s your one trial.

  79. Congrats Becky!!

    Our system is like Lark’s: you get assigned a number and a date, and you call in the night before to see if you need to appear. You can postpone if it is inconvenient, and then they put you back in the pool to get pulled again sometime in the next six months — but that next time, you will have a lower number, and so it’s more likely your number will be called and you will need to go in. IME, if you have a high number and don’t have to show up, it is also more likely that next time through, you will get a lower number. And then if you do serve on a trial, you are exempt for some period of time. Overall, it seems relatively fair and reasonable.

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