Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I served jury duty — well, not quite yet. Awhile ago, I received a notice in the mail that I was a telephone stand-by juror, and when I called Wednesday night, the message indicated I needed to come in. So I did.
Thursday, at 8:45 a.m., I showed up at Kings County Courthouse. I sat through a video documentary about jury duty that romanticized its past and starred Ed Bradley from 60 Minutes — only in New York! — and read a book while waiting for my name to be called.
It was, and I joined 19 other people in a room with five attorneys. I was among the first 10 interviewed, and shortly after lunch, I was selected to actually serve in a pending civil case that starts late next week.
When I got into work this morning, I was surprised by my colleagues’ reactions.
The first thing someone said was, “Couldn’t you get your way out of it?” I hadn’t even thought of trying actually. Because this is the first time I’ve ever been called to serve, I’m actually intrigued by the experience to come. And while I’m sure I’ll wish I could be back at work once the trial begins, I’m confused by the stereotypical perspective that jury duty is something to be avoided.
Then I checked our employee handbook. Our parent company actually encourages people to seek a postponement if they’re called to serve. And we need to provide proof of our service: the subpoena, jury certificate, or court order. Before and after we serve.
Most states require that employers grant workers time off to serve jury duty. And even though I work on a small team, I’m not comfortable with the concept of claiming that the team can’t work without me — even though I’ll have to be creative to make sure everything gets done despite my absence.
Because what does it say about our legal system if juries are only made up of people who don’t feel needed at work, aren’t important parts of their organization, and aren’t smart enough to weasel their way out of serving?