Tuesday, September 4, 2007

My Day in Court

It was time last week for my biannual service to the D.C. government: jury duty. Apparently, half the people summoned deal with it by not showing up, but of course I, being the law-abiding citizen that I am, always go. Besides, I hear they've started to arrest people who don't.

I'm never impaneled. I've always wanted to serve on a jury -- a useful experience for a Civil Procedure professor, I would think -- but as soon as the lawyers hear what I do, it's all over. Sometimes I can see them playing chicken over me -- I'll survive a few rounds in the jury box, as each lawyer waits for the other to use a peremptory challenge on me. I don't try to avoid service -- I answer the voir dire questions properly and I say that I would be fair to both sides and follow the judge's instructions, which I would, but I'm always struck off.

The only problem is that it can take a long time to get told to go home. This time it took 8 hours. The judge summoned a venire of 78 people and interviewed them one by one to get a jury of 12. We were there from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. It seems rather crazy. I don't think that's how they did it in the old days.

The only fun part is that there's often someone famous on the venire. The first time I served, it was Robert Bork. When the judge asked if anyone had worked at a law enforcement agency, he stood up and said diffidently, "I used to work at the Department of Justice." The best part was that it happened to be the first Monday in October -- the day the Supreme Court always starts its annual Term. I wanted to go up to him afterward and say, "so, back in court on the first Monday in October -- not quite what you had in mind!" But I didn't.

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