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The Verdict is In: Jury Duty Sucks

Why does it feel like you're in captivity while doing your civic duty to decide if someone should be in captivity?

I like control. I know that. I like to have control over every and anything that I can. Most of my fears, stressors and anxiety in life come from lack of control. I don’t like to fly, for example, because I feel like I should be able to stop, pull over and jump out of a moving vehicle any time I’d like. I’m probably not going to, but I like knowing that if I had to, I could.

I think, as I sit here watching a clock creep as slowly has I’ve ever seen it, that is why I am resenting jury duty so much right now. I get it, right? It is my civic duty. I should be proud to live in a free and just country. At the moment, I guess I’m just not feeling so All-American.

Instead, I’m counting by the hours in the . So far, I’ve gotten to hear Common Pleas Court’s Honorable Judge Arthur R. Tilson come say hello to the potential jurors, telling us how honored we should be to attend today’s possible hearings. I’ve been greeted in the marshalling room, released to get a “break” that could be anywhere from 10 minutes to two hours, and even got to watch a DVD telling me what it means to be a juror.

I found it somewhat ridiculous that the county hired out Comcast CN8’s Larry Kane to produce a video about jury duty, highlighting all the “no kidding, thanks for stating the obvious” items like how we can’t smoke in the courthouse, we must remain close by and how we shouldn’t talk about any cases in any capacity. Maybe I’m just mad they didn’t hire Patch.

We’ve been told to wear our juror badges, a handy little pinned-on label, all day long with no exceptions and that we’ll be called by a three-digit number for the rest of the day, if we are called at all.

As a busy, working, coaching, volunteering mother of two, I find sitting here all day long to be downright painful. I have a couple million things I could be getting done today. I came, at least, with laptop, iPad, two cell phones and book in tow, just in case I could squeeze in some work. (I am truly typing my column from a sketchy corner behind the vending machines before a grand marble staircase, just because I could find an electric plug there.)

I am hoping we get called. Maybe then we can be dismissed earlier. As a journalist, I find it highly unlikely that I’ll ever be selected in my life to serve. I think the members of the media rank somewhere between lawyers and criminals on the list of “folks we’d rather dismiss.” I thought putting my job title alone on the questionnaire would get me off. Alas, here I sit.

It is likely just the feeling of entrapment that is really bugging me. There is no wireless here, and cell phones (which you are only allowed to check in the lobby, during breaks) get terrible reception. You can sign your life away to borrow an Internet cord, with valid ID. (I literally laughed out loud when they told us this.) My poor little Verizon air card feels like it is operating via a tiny hamster running in its wheel.

If I sit at the right angle and pray to the wi-fi gods, I can get ONE bar in order to check my mail, assuming I’m willing to watch a blank screen for 20 minutes while it loads.

I know, it sounds like I am whining. And, I am. I find it nearly barbaric to hold maybe 150 people captive like this. We aren’t allowed to eat or drink in the marshalling room. If we get called to the courtroom, we have to hand over all of our possessions to the cloakroom.  With today’s technology, I feel nearly naked not to be able to use any of it for a whole day.

Somehow, I imagined jury duty to be less painful. I’ve had to come before, but I guess I didn’t have so many responsibilities at the time. I didn’t feel like sitting here in the courthouse for up to eight hours was such a loss.

Now, I watch my to-do list grow and grow, while the clock ticks and my day feels wasted. I’m not good at sitting still, and this hurts.

I hope my day ends quickly. I hope we are dismissed. Or the courts all settle. Or they figure out I’m an editor and suddenly realize their error in calling me here at all.

Until then, I’ll await my own “freedom” and hope my iPad battery lasts long enough to read my iBook.

Leola Hubbard October 17, 2011 at 06:25 PM
I was really distressed at reading this article by supposedly a responsible journalist. It IS a privilege to serve as a juror and I am honored every time I'm called. I take interest in seeing how our system works and in being a part of it for one day, usually every three years. I don't think that's too much of my time to give. What this writer is really lamenting is having to be cut off from all of those things that annoy a lot of us - the constant use of cellphones, ipods, and ipads. I use these things, too, but not to the point that I can't do without them for 8 hours. Maybe if the writer puts down these devices more often, there'd be a different perspective. We have a great one day, one trial system in Montgomery County. Many other areas require each juror to be in the courthouse more than a day at the time. I hope to see in the future that the Patch does articles to encourage the citizenry to do their duty, rather than to discourage and demean it.
Tony Di Domizio (Editor) October 17, 2011 at 06:59 PM
Thank you for your comment Leola on this opinion piece. Is there something or anything you have done as a civic duty that has discouraged you? Or do you see civic duty as just that - our job as citizens that shouldn't be challenged or questioned?
Leola Hubbard October 18, 2011 at 12:33 AM
I don't want to prolong this, but I really don't think we're asked to do much as our part of making this world work. I do think it's irresponsible for any part of the news media to set out to discourage people from doing their small part. My comments stand as stated. I can't think of anything I have done as a civic duty that has discouraged. To the contrary, it has made me want to do more!
Tony Di Domizio (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Leola, There was no intention to prolong it; I simply wanted to engage in a discussion. I'm glad you feel so strongly about your civic duties and having them me a driving force in your life. I'm sure there are many who agree with you. Thank you so much for commenting!
Melissa Treacy (Editor) October 18, 2011 at 02:29 PM
I too thank you for adding your thoughts, Leola. THAT is what community journalism IS all about, different folks sharing different opinions in a space we should all feel comfortable to discuss them. It was not an intent to discourage folks to perform their civic duties, and quite honestly, you don't have a choice. That was sort of my point. I don't enjoy being told what I HAVE to do. But, I understand as an adult, that is a fact of life. I reported for duty as instructed. But, I don't have to enjoy every minute of it. And, we should celebrate our freedoms and be glad we live in a world where I can voice my opinions about my distaste. I find it painful, and I wanted to share my experience in a truthful way. Thanks for sharing yours. I truly appreciate it!
Raymond A Hopkins October 19, 2011 at 07:06 PM
Ah Jury duty. No one likes it, but we are all lucky enough to have it. Sure it is a thing in life we don't like (a la Paying Taxes), but along with the good in a court system designed to give people a jury of their p-eers, you need the peers to be there. I get both sides, but really Melissa, if you feel naked with no technology, we need to get you off line for a week and also need to help you understand that NO ONE IS THIS IMPORTANT. Now I know, I sound like a HUGE douche for just seeming to tell you that you are not important, but that is not what I did say. What I said is "not that important". Sure could you be doing 10 things at home? Probably, but you probably could be doing some of those things when you decide to put them off till tomorrow or a friend calls etc. I think too often people start thinking that we are so important that these things are an inconvienence and should be optional. However, we know they are not. Not to the point you can be fined and a nice uniformed person may show up to help escourt you to the county seat to have a talk with the judge in person! I have been through Jury Duty and you know what, it was actually pretty relaxing. I mean having someone else control you is rough, but sitting down with the only worry I had was wearing my name badge, knowing when I had to be back, and reading my book was relaxing. The hard part about having control issues is that when your out of control you have issues. NEXT ENTRY.
Melissa Treacy (Editor) October 19, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Thanks, Raymond. You are probably right. I wish I could walk away and take a break or put things off until tomorrow. I should more often. Somewhere between working full-time, coaching, home and school, family, house, dog... ;) And, yes, few of those result in an officer coming to visit my home. (Maybe my boss... but...) I just get overwhelmed. But, yes, you are right. I should be able to log off. I guess working for a 24/7 online news site causes that anxiety, too! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though. Next time I'll try to look at it as a mini-vacation instead and see how I fair. ;)
Raymond A Hopkins October 19, 2011 at 07:20 PM
I also understand what a OPINION PIECE IS..I just like to add mine. Oh and Leola, I get it...You think she should do her civic duty, but unlike the people who have to drive to the County Seat for our Federally Funded job, going to that area at any time of the business day is a traffic and logistics nightmare, EXPENSIVE AS HECK TO PARK, borderline safe, and an overall not pleasant place to be, between disintrested public employees, uniformed personell, and non helpful government employees. Just sayin.
Montco Mike July 06, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Raymond, You hit it spot on. For people who do not get paid while on Jury duty, $9 a day is an insult, and is far less than the criminals are receiving on welfare. I doubt the judge would be proud to serve for $9 a day. The Montomery County Courthouse itself is located in Norristown, by far the WORST part of Montco. It is difficult to get there and you do not feel safe even driving through the neighborhood. Rather than having a proper prescreening process, they drag 150+ people into a room to sit around doing nothing. Most will never see a trial. Don't think your $9 will even cover lunch. It is a joke to watch who gets excused and who gets selected. I've seen 8 month pregnant women, with other kids at home, who a judge on an ego trip refuses to excuse. If someone is actually intelligent (journalist, doctor, teacher, etc.) they will almost inevitably be excluded. Lets not even talk about the lowest common denominator staff who work at the courthouse. They act as if the jurors are inconveniencing them from watching their soap operas. Jury duty in Mayberry may be one thing. In Norristown, it does indeed suck.
ann krumbine March 05, 2013 at 04:36 AM
lighten up. People have 'real lives' and work to do. I identify with this article. No time for this
ann krumbine March 05, 2013 at 04:40 AM
I work on billable hours. I am going tomorrow to jury duty. IF i am picked - i have the hardship of making 50 billable hours up in one week (ie. working the entire weekend). At the same time, parent in hospital after coding one week ago. I don't consider this a priviledge at this stage. Just something i have to get through. With my employer - does not matter if I am in jury duty- i will have to take PTO or make up the billable hours required per week (50).

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