Jury Duty: Hurry up and wait

A few weeks ago, a multi-colored piece of mail arrived at our house. Melissa got her hands on it when she checked the mail and, sounding like Nelson from The Simpson’s, said “Ha ha; you’ve got jury duty.” I’ll add, again – at least my 4th or 5th time in Broward County. While I’ve written about it before, I had some additional thoughts based on my latest experience. First, the hurry up and wait part. It starts with the security line, early in the day for me; the reporting time is 7:45 a.m. Screening is similar to boarding a flight. Very understandable. But, what I found strange is how the courthouse screeners made the TSA agents look like friendly Disney workers. These people were sour, rude, insolent and really started the day off on a negative tone. The signage from the garage to the security checkpoint was very poor, and arriving at the checkpoint, only to be greeted in this way, was very disappointing. (I’ll be sending this post to the Chief Judge and Clerk of Court.) Once I was past that line, and getting myself reorganized, line 2 came into view – the check in at the juror assembly room. That went smoothly enough and Mary Lou was much friendlier than the folks 50 feet back down the corridor. Then came line 3, the line to validate parking. It was longer than the security line! I haven’t been in that many lines in a row in a very long time! Disney world doesn’t even force lining up back to back like that. The large jury assembly room is relatively comfortable once you get past the lines. And, as many know, there is a something of a routine these days – greeting by an assistant clerk, and then by a judge; Judge Davis did a fine job with his overview of jury service, and in leading the Pledge of Allegiance. Next comes a video, and, sorry to say, Broward County, this video is very amateurish. Some of the information presented in a Q&A format was useless once we had arrived in the assembly room – a waste of time. Then there was a wait for more clerical instructions which takes way too long and which could be much better handled with visual aids. A first for me was observing the beginning of voir dire for a long trial during which a judge came to the assembly room to separate out a group of people who could sit for a 10 day trial. Those of us without hardships were moved to the side of the assembly room and the judge explained his scheme including a written questionnaire. But, as this post has turned into a critique, I’ll point out he wasted time in covering the importance of jury service – something which, by then, had been covered 2 times once by the judge of the day and the 2nd, on the video. Enough already. After this venire was handled, the clerk started a movie – and one can’t even escape the audio in the break room. Argh. Occasionally, groups of juror numbers were called to assemble and go to a specific courtroom, but there was no urgency in this process and the clock ticked away. As the lunch hour neared, I realized I would have to exit the building for lunch, meaning, I’d have to go back through security to return – a terrible thought. The Broward County Courthouse used to have a restaurant/café, and though it wasn’t much, it was something that could have prevented having to repeatedly contend with security. But, for whatever reason, there is no food available other than in vending machines. Certainly someone could figure out a way to serve some basics. Happily, for me though, before a lunch break could be called, the rest of us were dismissed to go on our way. But, not without another long roll call that delayed the departure that much longer. Okay, after all my griping, I will state jurors are important. They are important to the legal system. They are important to our trial consulting business. They are the raw ingredients to that make trial by jury work. Having said that, while our treatment was nothing horrible, it was far from what it could be. And, having said that, if you are an attorney, remember the things through which the venire members have gone just to reach a courtroom for you to start asking personal questions. Trial attorneys should go through the experience to gain an appreciation of how the process flows. Just get in the regular (non security) security line sometime, you know, the one where you can’t use your lawyer pass. And, maybe go sit in for the juror orientation. It will do you good to see the world from a juror’s viewpoint. I appreciate jurors. I understand and respect jury duty and I am more than willing to appear when summoned. But, those in charge need to be considerate in the use of my time, and that of the other jurors. And, attorneys need to realize what prospective jurors have been through before they show up in a courtroom for jury selection.

Fortunately or unfortunately, David has been summoned for jury duty more than I have. And, given the length of David’s post about his most recent jury experience, I guess he has strong feelings about jury duty. In contrast to most people I know, I would love, absolutely love, serving my country as a juror. But, no attorney in his/her “right mind” would select me, fearing I would critique the entire trial, including the attorneys’ performance of their job. Would I? But, focusing on David’s points about “hurrying up to wait,” I accept these indignities, inefficiencies, and intrusions as a way of life in the courthouse, when selecting juries is taking place. The endless waiting in long lines, the tedious sitting around, the boring films and lectures by court personnel, and the overall poor ambiance is, to me, an expected part of jury service. When I am assisting attorneys in selecting juries, I have observed many judges express their desire not to inconvenience the jurors, who, by the time they arrive in the courtroom for the voir dire process, have been sitting around idly for several hours. I don’t have any solutions to the problems David mentions, therefore, the next time I receive a jury summons, I will gladly report to the Broward County Courthouse, and I will, as always, have plenty of good reading material, as well as snacks, water, noise cancelling headphones, and a sweater. I do, however, hope there is a new restaurant to replace the former one by the next time I am there.

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