Sunday, May 06, 2007

Jury Duty


The one interesting and unusual thing that happened to me this week was I got called for jury duty. It began differently than normal; instead of receiving a letter telling me to call in every morning to see if I had to report, I got a subpoena, telling me I had to go to court the week before to fill out a questionnaire. We were told that this was fairly unusual, which made me think it might be an interesting case. The questionnaire asked about ordinary things like your education and occupation, and things that seemed more specific like what you thought about lawsuits, tort reform and capping monetary damage awards. It also asked about your hobbies, your news sources, and my favorite question: "What are the bumper stickers on your households car?" So would my "What if the hokey pokey IS what it's all about?" bumper-sticker disqualify me? Or how about my husbands "What would Buddha do?" Interesting question!

When we returned to court on Tuesday, there were so many of us they need to bring in extra chairs, and the judge had a seating chart telling us where to sit. I wondered if there was significance to the chart. Were we pre-screened as to who the prosecution and defense thought they would like to choose? They handed around another questionnaire, and every one was required to stand up and answer all the questions. It seemed a little silly, as most of the questions had been covered in the written questionnaire we took the week before. It was interesting to see the variety in answers; the various educations and occupations of the prospective jurors, and their interests. Many were pretty ordinary, others more interesting, like the guy why builds and flies experimental aircraft, or the woman who looked about my age that was a skydiver. I admit I was the only one to stand up and say I made lampworked glass beads, and was a member of the International Society of Glass Beadmakers.

The bad thing about the question process, was they also wanted to know what your family members did for a living. Since I live in Utah, where there as so many huge families, those lists went on forever as people listed the occupations of their 5 or 8 kids. From there the questions got more specific, so everyone didn't have to answer: "Have you been involved in a lawsuit, or car crash? Do you have strong feelings about lawsuits?" Some people where actually privately interviewed in the judges chambers. It was interesting to see how the process went, although I think this case was a bit atypical; the judge told us that it was the longest jury picking process she had in her 8 years as a judge.

To make a long story short, I didn't get picked. Part of me was relieved, because they anticipated the case would last another three days, and I'd hate to miss that much work. On the other hand I was really curious about the case. All we were told was that the couple was suing for damages because of back or neck injuries she received in a car wreck. She was wanted to be compensated for pain and suffering, he for “loss of consortium.” I was curious about the case. Were these money grubbing sue-happy people or was she really damaged? Was the driver (who admitted liability) reckless or was it truly just an accident. One alarming thing was that the accident happened in 1999... does this say something for the legal process? Are all cases drawn out for years and years? Yikes!!! I guess I'll never know, darn it. At least I'm off the hook for jury duty for the next two years.

1 comment:

ellen said...

Wow, kinda cool! Just going through the whole process. I've never been called for jury duty. I think that's odd since I've lived here for almost 30 years. Now that I'm retired I think it would be neat but I'm also doing a lot of interpreting in the courts now so I'd probably be disqualified right away.