For most of yesterday, I had no name, only a number – 23. Juror #23.
While my number was unique, I’m fairly certain my attitude about jury duty wasn’t.
Part of me hoped to get out of serving altogether, to not disrupt my work schedule, inconvenience my clients, or sit still and unplugged for hours. The other part of me craved a front row seat to a steaming courtroom drama. Surely the other 349 in the pool were feeling the same way.
I’d been called to jury duty only once before, in 1992. I wasn’t chosen then either; but I remember two things about that day.
The first: More than a few of us were reading A Time to Kill, John Grisham’s first novel. The book had come out three years earlier, but it had gotten little attention until Grisham’s next legal suspense thriller, The Firm, came out in ’92. Jury selection was a central part of A Time to Kill and those of us who arrived with paperback in hand were dying to be selected. The second thing I remember: Even though I wasn’t selected, I felt sequestered. A full work day at the courthouse without any contact with my office was nerve-wracking.
As I prepared to report for my civic duty this week, I failed to consider the technological advancements of the last two decades. I somberly told my friends, family and clients they’d not be able to reach me. I even put an out-of-office notification on my e-mail.
How sick was my disappointment to be allowed full use of my smart phone? To learn that the jury room had free wi-fi? To see a dozen computer stations available for any use ranging from e-mail to Solitaire? That’s no fun.
While I awaited assignment to a courtroom, I made my own fun – mostly by counting errors in the orientation video. (By the way, Montgomery County, the translation of voir dire is not “to see [and] to hear.” It is “to see [and] to say.”)
I listened in on my fellow jurors’ cell phone conversations, rolling my eyes as they overstated the drama to their loved ones and colleagues. I could only imagine their exaggerated tweets.
Finally, I was assigned to a courtroom where I was sure there’d be real action. The judge outlined some basic facts about the snoozer of the case—a personal injury incident taking place four years prior. He conducted the obligatory voir dire, which revealed nary a trace of conflict.
And then the judge spoke: “Madam Clerk, may I borrow your stapler?”
And then I was dismissed.