Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Very First Jury Summons

Paul says I must be the only person in all the world to be disappointed not to be picked to serve on a jury.

But there it is. I'm a little upset. And the worst part is, I never even came close to being chosen.

I once got called for jury duty in college, but when the court learned I lived 2 1/2 hours away I was immediately excused. I didn't even have to show up.

Unlike most people, this time I was actually excited to get a jury summons and eagerly showed up at the Kings County Supreme Court in downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday morning. I was armed with a book and expected to get a day or two of reading under my belt before listening to a case and deciding someone's fate.

I wasn't asking for anything too serious. No death penalty. No homicide. Maybe a good drug case, that's all.

How the day really went:

8:00 a.m.: Showed up at the courthouse, followed by about 200 other potential jurors. Comfy chairs-- I could get used to this.

8:45 a.m.: Watched a cheesy film filled with bad acting about the importance of jury duty.

8:45 - 10:30 a.m.: Read.

10:30 a.m.: Got called to a jury room with 19 other potential jurors to be questioned for a landlord-commercial tenant dispute.

10:30 a.m. - 12:40 p.m.: Listened to six people get questioned. Four were chosen for the jury. Two more jurors and two alternates are needed-- I still have a chance!

12:40 -2 p.m.: Lunch.

2 - 3:30 p.m.: Six more people -- none me -- are questioned, and the final four jurors are chosen. We remaining eight are dismissed.

3:30 - 4:15 p.m.: Read.

4:15 p.m.: Excused from jury duty. For eight years.

I was pretty bummed. I wanted to raise my hand with a "Pick me, pick me!" all day, and here I didn't even get questioned.

The brightest part of the day: Seeing Kings County Clerk Nancy Sunshine. Can't say she was too inspiring, but who doesn't perk up at a last name like that?


  1. I've never been called for jury duty. Phil was called about a year ago, but was excused immediately when he told them he's a public defender in the county and knows most of the judges and a lot of attorneys.

  2. If you actually want to serve on a jury, your best bet (assuming you end up on a panel during the voir dire process), is to seem about as normal, open-minded and not overly educated about cops and courts. People generally get excused pretty quickly if they have connections to law enforcement, or lawyers, or if they have legal backgrounds themselves or work for courts. Answer questions posed in voir dire politely, don't say anything that might peg you as being in particular political or ideological camp, and don't treat the process as an opportunity to prattle on and on and tell your life story. (People who do that get excused for seeming crazy.)

    -- a journalist who covers the courts



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