Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Getting Out of Jury Duty

Suddenly I remembered the one and only reason for not registering to vote when I received my latest jury summons for the San Francisco court. I hate jury duty. It's not that I'm an anarchist or that I dont like looking at men in uniform. I simply cannot afford to do it, one doesn't get paid for their service to the court*.

The night before I tried to find creative ways to try to get myself out of jury duty. Like printing a huge penis on a t-shirt to wear to the court. I suspected this might not work the way I wanted, so instead I picked out my "I'm a woman and I vote" t-shirt, and wore that instead. Hey, an opinionated woman is a scary thing to a lot of people, even... especially in San Francisco.

10:30 am: There I was at 10:30am reporting for duty in room 307 of the Hall of Justice. They took names. I felt like a child. Damn why couldn't my last name start with the letter A?

10:45 am: And now for the video. How delightful, California sponsored bullshit trying to tell me how important it is for me to not get paid! Now that we've been put in line, by a video, we're off to the court room.

11:30 am: All 50 of us potential jurors shuffle into a newly remodeled courtroom where names are called again. It's like sitting in a beige fishbowl with lots of chairs and a great big seal of California. There is absolutely nothing interesting to gaze at. Judge Jackson comes in, and the room is suddenly lit up by this beautiful african american woman. But any brightness she brings quickly fades as she launches right into a long winded bureaucratic nightmare.

Questions like; "Do you understand that you must be impartial?" and "Can you check your personal grievances at the door?" and "Can you speak English?" are asked. When is somebody going to ask me if I want to be here?

1:00 pm: After lunch, I'm starving. There are only bail bond places around the courthouse. They take our attendance, again.

It takes a while to ask people if they are fit enough to be a juror, as if they can't believe what anybody says, jurors are asked to draw out their reasons. I'm getting impatient. A few jurors argued that they aren't ready for jury duty, these poor people trying to explain, as politely as possible, that they "just cant be there right now". Its clear that people like the maid, and a cook, simply cannot afford this. Another web developer chimes in and uses deadlines as a reason for needing to leave. Sucker. Judge Jackson just sends them all back to room 307, nobody truely gets dismissed, just rescheduled. Where is my penis t-shirt?

For my part I was as flippant as possible without getting into trouble. As soon as they asked people if they could be impartial, I said, "NO". No explanations. No humoring stupid lawyers. just NO. That pissed them off. Actually I did give them an explanation, I said my brother is a cop, and I hear too many of his work stories, and I am incapable of being impartial, thanks. This was my only tactic for getting out of jury duty without getting sent back to 307. But would it work?

3:30 pm: I know all there is to know about the waiting game... How long does it take? I'm starting to get worried, like the cop excuse wasn't enough. Panicing I seized every opportunity to be annoying. Fidgeting and yawning a lot. What's this? What do I think about drug use? The conversation just got interesting. Suddenly a room full of adult San Franciscans are openly discussing the topic of illegal drug use, ON RECORD, in public. Then we're asked to say where we live, if we're married or single, and what we do for a living. What? Un-be-fucking-lievable. I just say I am a "self employed artist". OMG I think I've lost $500 already.

The story has a happy ending. My scheme worked but a little late, I was dismissed from jury duty the following morning, principles and personal information still in tact. Despite my bad attitude, the jury selection process was fairly well run. It was certainly better managed, and less of a waste of time than interviewing for a job in Silicon Valley. Certainly much, MUCH better than interviewing for a job at Google.

My only problem with jury duty, is not getting paid. Actually, you do get paid $15/day. Still clearly not enough money to even eat with in this city.


  1. Yikes. Sorry you had to go through that... but it sure did make for an entertaining blog post!

  2. Stephanie, this is your older brother-the cop! I am ashamed you tried to get out of jury duty. The only reason I registered to vote was to be on a jury. After years and years of waiting, I was finally called to jury duty but there was one problem, I was a State Trooper. Since I was working the day I had to report for jury duty, I had to go in uniform. I thought I would be quickly dismissed but they would not let me leave. I was then called to the courtroom with several other prospects. Can you imagine the suprise on the Judges face when he realized I was present for jury duty and not a witness. Personally, I think it would of been great to be a juror while in full uniform. But the judge dismissed me. My life long dream of being a juror was dashed on the rocks of life. I could have lived the juror experience through you but alas, you re-victimized me. As your big brother, I would like you to apologize for trying to get out of your civic duty. Love, Charles

  3. Sorry Charlie, I can not apologize. My time, indeed EVERYBODY'S time is too valuable to give away. In this world we all have bills and responsibilities and it's really actually abusive for the system to command people to give out time without proper compensation. I can charge up to $120/hour for my time. I would be willing to let the government pay me only $20/hour for my civic "service". I have a lot of bills, it's just not fair.

  4. I agree. The fact that "you must perform jury duty" shouts communism. When people have to be forced to do something in a "free democratic society" or be punished... something is WRONG with the system. I'm also an artist (freelance film & television). I make good money but missing a day or a week would really screw me financially (especially since I don't know when my next project will come up) and I don't think it is right to be forced to take time off work. I hear that you're selected from DMV records now and that not registering to vote won't remove you from the master list.