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Jury Duty - Take 1

I reported for jury duty Wednesday morning. It was the first time I'd ever done so, so I didn't know quite what to expect. I was frankly looking forward to the experience, because I've never seen the justice system up close and personal before.

The procedure is to call the courthouse the night before and listen to a recorded message to determine if you need to report the next day at all. This maximizes jurors' scheduling uncertainty, and in fact I had to avoid scheduling some business travel during this time period. The recorded message, and the summons I received in the mail, both stated that the doors open at 8AM and stressed the importance of not bringing metal objects due to security screening.

I arrived at the courthouse somewhere between 8:05 and 8:10 (I didn't wear a watch) and was surprised at the length of the line that had already formed ahead of me. I made small talk with the other people in line, comparing the experience to being at an airport. And, this being Oregon, it was raining. I waited in line in the rain for about forty minutes just to reach the front doors of the courthouse. I had no idea it would be so bad. I wasn't wearing warm enough clothing and I hadn't brought an umbrella. The instructions gave no warning that just entering the building was a significant issue. Before I went through the doors I counted the line behind me, about 30 people.

I mentally compared the experience to waiting in line at the post office or at the DMV. The government doesn't care about making people wait in line or how uncomfortable they are. <sigh> It's illuminating to contrast that with lines at a for-profit business like a grocery store. I've only had two uncomfortably long waits there in the past year, and even then they were less than 10 minutes. It's amazing what a little financial incentive will do for customer service.

It was 8:50 when I was finally through the security screening. I went downstairs to the jury orientation room only to see that the door was closed and a sign said I should go back upstairs to the information desk. They had already started. I was too late.

There was (you guessed it!) a long line for the information desk. After a couple minutes the jury coordinator showed up and started talking to people and it became apparent that most of the people in line for the information desk were also jurors who missed the orientation — roughly 15 people. There were undoubtedly some still outside, as well.

The jury coordinator explained that the jury orientation starts between 8:30 and 8:45 and that we were all late and that we should have arrived earlier. Some of these people had been in line since before 8AM, before the courthouse doors even opened, so they were justifiably unimpressed with that explanation. We were told that we needed to reschedule our jury duty and could not be dismissed from it. If we didn't reschedule, we'd be cited for failing to appear and could be held in contempt of court. Lots of snickering in the crowd.

We were given the option of rescheduling and leaving, or staying to talk with the trial court administrator. Who, incidentally, was doing an interview and wouldn't be available until 10AM. It was shortly after 9AM at this point, so the wait would be significant. Only four jurors (including myself) elected to stay and chat with the administrator. Several of the others were given his contact information so they could write letters expressing their displeasure.

I had brought both a book to read and a notebook, so I wasn't worried about being bored during the wait. I sat down and started writing notes for this blog article. :) I also wrote down the questions and suggestions I had for the administrator. He showed up after only a few minutes (unavailable until 10AM, indeed!) and the group of us sat down at a table in the cafe.

… I'll write about our conversation shortly.

Tiny Island