Vote Charlie!

First call to jury duty ends quickly

Posted at age 28.

Today I reported for jury duty for my first time, but was not chosen to serve. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year, and at least it got me out of the house!

Two of my roommates also had jury duty this month, so I thought they were perhaps picking by addresses. Then I heard Brad has it, too. And also my brother Tim, but he lives in another city. Strange.

The process was pretty painless. I received a letter a few weeks ago instructing me to check the website Friday, September 16, after 4:30 p.m.



When I checked the site Friday, I found my group was to check back Tuesday:

Groups 112, 113 and 116 revisit this website on Tuesday, September 20, 2016 after 4:30 p.m.

While I was at City Clinic Tuesday, I checked again. (Thank you Firefox for the “synced tabs from other devices” feature!)

Groups 112, 113 and 116 report to 400 McAllister Street, Room 007 on Wednesday, September 21, 2016 at 12:45 p.m.

While checking the map for 400 McAllister Street, I found a Yelp “Talk” page for a conversation titled, “Jury Duty @ 850 Bryant - what’s it like?“. This is the other jury duty location that I was not assigned to, but I clicked anyway, and what I found was somewhat scary! Users were apparently scheming to agree on conviction before even being assigned to a case, much less knowing the facts and deciding the defendant is actually guilty. “Let’s put em in lock up for life!” and “If he’s good looking, he’s totally innocent, k? Let’s make a pact.” I sure hope these people aren’t serving on a jury with that attitude! Some of the other comments were more helpful, if not politically correct.

jury-dity-yelp-reviews-sf-01.png jury-dity-yelp-reviews-sf-02.png jury-dity-yelp-reviews-sf-03.png jury-dity-yelp-reviews-sf-04.png jury-dity-yelp-reviews-sf-05.png

Come Wednesday, I planned to leave around noon, assuming 15 minutes of biking and 30 minutes of security and finding the room. I actually left at 12:15, but I got to Jury Assembly Room 007 by 12:30, 15 minutes early. There was only one bike parked at the racks along Polk Street, so I locked up feet away from the entrance. Immediately inside was security, with only one person in front of me. I had to take off my belt, but was able to keep my shoes and Fitbit on. The staff (officers?) seemed pretty lax, and one volunteered directions to me after I passed through.

Down the stairs, knock and Room 7, and if no one answers, go to Room 8.”

I had to wonder if procedures were different some days or if he had never been down there, because the doors were wide open and dozens of people were inside with dozens more coming, so I doubted it could be locked with no answer. Perhaps some people report for much smaller batches?

I was only slightly nervous walking in, not so much for looking incompetent but rather for looking nervous. I dressed up a bit, opting for a button down tucked in with dress pants and belt and shoes. I probably only dressed up one or two times this year, so I at least felt out of place in my own history. I thought I looked strange with a tucked in shirt, but hoped it would seem normal to others!

Once in the room, I saw a desk to the right with one person in line, and I waited there. I had previously read I’d need to check in and out if I needed to leave the room, so I figured there would be someone at the door, and there was! The lady took my summons form, tore off the bottom half that I hoped I wasn’t supposed to fill out, because I didn’t, and she gave me the top and said I was checked in. Then I went to sit.

The room was pretty nice, with a ring of counter top serving as a desk in the center, and rows of seats in the near and far sides. There were outlets by the desks and some along the walls. Competition didn’t seem terribly fierce. There was one next to me, where a fan was also plugged in, making me wonder if I would even hear if my name were called. I saw TV screens above, and figured they would put the assignments on the screen, so I decided not to move to another seat.

At 12:45, the woman at the desk announced over a loudspeaker for anyone not a citizen, younger than 18 or convicted of a felony to come to the desk to be excused, as they were not qualified for jury duty.

At 13:01, she made the same announcement. Then we watched a video that was around 12 or 14 minutes long. It began, “California, the greatest state in the nation.” I thought it was funny to have such an unprovable statement in a video by the court, an entity to which truth is so important. The rest of the video featured some past jurors and attorneys talking about how exciting and profound serving can be. I thought the content was reasonable, and not too cheesy, though the video was apparently quite old. I learned something, too: criminal trials always have 12 jurors, and the verdict must be unanimous, but civil trials can have fewer than 12 jurors, and only three quarters of them must reach agreement. Something else interesting was the line: “Many jurors stay in touch afterward.”

Next the attendant explained compensation, and said government employees were not entitled to the $15 remuneration, but could choose to get the $2.50 mileage payment. She then asked for anyone who is a government employee or who wanted to waive their payment to raise their hands so she could give them a form. I had previously figured I would waive my payment, but given the extra work apparently involved for everyone, I did not raise my hand.

At 13:23, she said we would watch “another short video”, which lasted about 5 minutes. This one was apparently an updated version of the last one, for the content was similar, but it was at least 720p and much crisper looking.

At 13:28, the attendant announced we were waiting for the courtroom to let us know they are ready.

The first assignments came at 13:50. She said to go to Department 604 on the sixth floor if your name is called, and then she announced dozens of names, repeating the room number after each chunk of names. I wasn’t counting then, but she must have called at least 60 and maybe 100 names. It seemed like everyone was getting up and leaving the room.

At 13:54, she said she would be reading a second list of names shortly. It looked like about 20 people remained.

At 13:57, she said she would read names and then give the instruction at the end. She read six names, and then my name, and then 18 more. Then she said the jurors who proceeded to selection were chosen at random, and we were not chosen, so we were thus excused. Our duty to serve was satisfied for 12 months. We could get a proof of attendance slip at the desk if we so desired, otherwise we were free to go.

I was disappointed I didn’t get to see what was next, but of course there’s always a lot on my plate, so it’s not the end of the world. I often tell myself this time of unemployment is the most important to stay focused and be productive, for it will have a big impact on my future more so than time while at a particular job. But then it also seems ideal for serving on a jury since my schedule is flexible or nonexistent. Really it’s probably a delusion that any time is more valuable than any other time. If I’m not doing something valuable with my time, regardless of whether I am employed, I might just be wasting it. But then again, given the value of relaxing, maybe wasting time is also a myth. I won’t worry about it too much either way.