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Surviving Jury Duty

Updated on January 9, 2018
Eric Seidel profile image

One of the reasons for joining Hubpages is I just like to help people whenever I can. Some of my work is for giving advice or preparing.

The Baltimore City Courthouse. Or at least the main one.
The Baltimore City Courthouse. Or at least the main one.

Why Jury Duty Is Important or At Least What They Say It Is

Before I start my educational rant let’s consider why jury duty is important. Simply put we’re those bored people in the corner of the court room. We do however have a purpose, just as long as we don’t get called to a trial. This is my second time doing jury duty, and I know there are a lot of you that have done it or will be doing it in future. So please excuse my opinion if you’re one of those that (for some reason) love jury duty. For the rest of you in reality, just note that we have to do it but it is a pain in the ass, remember that your civic duty as an American will always be a massive pain in the ass. Instead of looking like the composed jury in an episode of Law and Order we are indeed bored out of our freaking minds. It’s good to get reality based immediately in these subjects.

This is where the public defenders do their work. Well when I say work I should say "thinking of how to just give up".
This is where the public defenders do their work. Well when I say work I should say "thinking of how to just give up".

How It Works

The practice might be different in other states, but everything you're about to read occurs in Baltimore Maryland. A state where the justice is b.s. based on my experience with court. My idea of justice would have been to just make use of a bullet, rather than a slap on the hand. The first time I did jury duty it was a learning curve, on my second time (and after how Maryland handled my ex) I think it’s all a joke. If you haven’t done it yet, don’t let me kill your sense of civic duty, that’s not my point.

(I notice that since I said that a few years ago there has been an influx in police related shootings. Not saying I'm the cause, I actually blame poor training on the police departments' part. However considering the media over blows a lot of these shootings, especially during Obama's tenure, I am strictly on the side of the police. They honestly have to put up with a lot more crap than you might realize. Arguably there are officers out there with a "my shit doesn't stink" attitude, and some may even be suffering from P.T.S.D. brought on from their time in the service. I AM NOT defending THOSE guys and gals in blue, but the experienced officers who have busted their ass to keep the rest of us safe.)

First you go through security, then you go into a room where you wait to get called up to the sign-in desk. While you’re waiting for that they play a short film about why jury duty is important. One of the things the guy says is “If you do not get accepted for a trial, please don’t be offended.” I won’t! In fact that is the best thing you can hope for during your time in jury duty. Once you sign in they give you $15 for lunch. Also I want to point out how extremely friendly the court clerks are. Which is surprising as most people who work for the city of Baltimore have ignorant attitudes. I’m not just saying that because they paid me too… the $15 is from the state, for your “time served”, and to pay for lunch. It did help with my I-could-have-used-three-more-hours-of-sleep-on-my-day-off mood though.

(I now have a more worth while occupation and it honestly does suck to have a get-out-of-work free card, but I could be making more money right now. This is a golden aspect of jury duty that will forever be a pain in the rectum.)

Once everyone has had the chance to sign in you have the option to stay for a movie or go to a quiet room. I always pick the quiet room because you have a place to sit and work on your laptop. If you can find a place, sometimes it’s very crowded. Your best bet is to wait for all of the smokers to take their ten minute breaks before trying for a spot. Don't be afraid to ask for a seat. People are always assholes, but if they are be stern. (Not an equal amount of asshole, just be stern. Which I believe is the cross point between assholism and courteous.)

(Running late? Don't stress it! Look at your jury number. If you're in the 800s you have plenty of time to get there, so go easy on the horn if you catch early morning traffic. It takes about two hours to get to your numbers. If you get there late what are they gonna do make you go home? So that you can spend the rest of your day off? Uhh ok!)

They usually have good taste in movies, always playing something recent (not that I'm ever interested or that you could hear the movie in the quiet room). Eventually your number is called, but called in mass. They won’t specifically say “jury number (blank)” but a 0-### through 0-### format. Then you follow the mob of bored people to your next destination. In Baltimore’s case there are four or five different buildings in the area so you’re almost always walking to somewhere else for the court room. Once you get in the court room all electronic devices must be shut off, and you cannot do anything. No talking, no writing, etc. You just have to sit there bored out of your mind until they call out questions and ask you to raise your hand. Then there’s a mini interview with the defense attorney, judge, and state/district attorney. After they ask you to go have a seat they’ll either pick you for the trial or ask you to leave.

Typically around 12:30 you get to go eat lunch, one hour and 15 minutes. Then you come back to the waiting room and repeat the process until they say you can go home, which mercifully is around 3:00-4:00PM. The best thing you can hope for is that you don’t get picked for a trial, that’s the goal. You get paid $15 a day for a trial. You can make a lot more by going to your normal job. Unless you’re one of those lucky bastards that gets paid salary in which case you get time off and still get an additional $15.

YOUR Opinion On Jury Duty

How do you feel about jury duty?

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Ok so the flask might be a bit much but... No actually it's about right...
Ok so the flask might be a bit much but... No actually it's about right...

What You Will Need

The night before, you are scheduled to come in, sign into the state court website (link will be on the summons they mail you) and see if your juror number is part of the #-### format on the webpage. If you don’t have a computer you can call their automated service (which is a pain in the ass if you're on a minutes plan), either way it has to be after 5PM. So what better way of enjoying coming home from work than to find out you are summoned to jury duty. Luckily they let you know a month in advance (normally) when you receive the summons. This gives you plenty of time to schedule the inconvenience at your place of work. Don’t worry if your boss is an asshole like Alan Voss, they HAVE to let you off that day. Hehe it’s the law!

The night before make sure you’re stocked with whatever you are going to use to pass the time. A book, fully charged electronic device(s), anything you do for a hobby is a survival tool at this point; like croce, knitting, (maybe not those last two) drawing, etc. Just keep in mind that the vending machines most likely won’t be working. So if you’re diabetic or have some other disorder that requires an emergency candy bar make sure you have a couple with you in advance. Passing the time by wondering halls of the court building is not a good idea. They have intercoms, but only in the jury rooms, not in the halls. There isn’t much to do in a court building. Most areas are off limits and really it’s not like it’s some museum with props and plaques set up everywhere. You also can’t sit in on any of the trials. This is why it’s important to bring something with you. It astounds me that no-one has a PS Vita or a Nintendo DS in situations like this. (I haven't touched my Vita in over a year.) They are the perfect tool for those moments (or in this case “hours”) where you have nothing else to do. Have they tried marketing it for jury duty?

I always wondered why they hang those nets on the side of the main court building. I guess it's to keep birds out? I doubt it will catch sniper bullets, not that anyone in Baltimore is dedicated enough to try THAT kind of jail break.
I always wondered why they hang those nets on the side of the main court building. I guess it's to keep birds out? I doubt it will catch sniper bullets, not that anyone in Baltimore is dedicated enough to try THAT kind of jail break.

My Perspective With Jury Duty

Only 300 people were called in on December 22, 2014. A lot less crowded than usual in the quiet room. I technically watched “A Thousand Words” with Eddie Murphy. (They played this AGAIN. No new Eddie Murphy movies to show or is it a copyright thing?) Couldn’t hear what they were saying but got the gist of it. Then they played “Avatar,” luckily my number got called, not that I was going to watch that movie a second time anyway. Last time I got called into a civil trial. A couple of people were suing some corporation over… can’t remember. They asked if I would be bias. I told them that my mother fell and broke her arm at Walmart, and they didn’t even give her a gift card as an apology (true story), they excused me. If the Tracey Morgan incident is anything to go by Walmart are massive assholes when it comes to court proceedings. Another question that’s asked is “do you have a police officer in your immediate family?” My dad tells me to mention my grandfather. He was in the Baltimore City Police Department, and as cranky as he was I would still trust the opinion of a cop over anything else in a trial. It’s very important that you pick your battles before you answer specific questions. My mom took my dad’s advice and was picked for a trial involving a cop. If I end up in another trial I’m using my ex as an excuse. I don’t ever want to get picked for a civil case, you don’t want to decide money related outcomes.

I was once part of a mock trial for Baltimore Research. Two days of my life wasted but I got $400 to buy a new computer. Worth it! The “trial” involved some former hotel employees suing for carbon monoxide poisoning. We had to push buttons for different questions, listen to a loud Southern guy who insisted it wasn’t a “mock trial”, and a lot of time stuck in a conference room. I got through it by taking a lot of notes. It didn’t help that I watched “12 Angry Men” the night before. I suppose the researchers didn’t appreciate my Henry Fonda impersonation. They looked dissatisfied when they handed me the envelop of money. Anyway the reason civil trials are hell is everyone has a different opinion of how much money a person should get. A lot of math and arguing involved. Three hours later we were finally going home. It’s also the curse of being neutral; you get put in the “special” group. The other two “teams” went home much earlier.

This time it looked like a criminal trial that was already underway. One thing you never hear all of those courtroom dramas is the white noise they blast through the speakers whenever the judge says “approach the bench.” There was about 15 minutes of that before the judge basically said “welp we don’t need you afterall, the defense cut a plea.” In other words “merry Christmas, you are free to not become a part of this travesty.”

For lunch I recommend Crazy John’s down on Baltimore Street across from Club Pussy Cat (that is if you’re in Baltimore). Yeah that’s right. It’s in Baltimore’s strip club capital. I considered going in to one of them with the 20 minutes of time I had left. Except I’ve been in a strip club, on The Block, on a Monday afternoon… Saggy is the keyword that comes to mind. Anyway at Crazy John’s you can get a burger, fries, and a drink for $6. It was a meal, nothing outstanding, but for the price it was good. Just don’t look at the bottom of the cup that the fries come in.

I SAID DON'T LOOK!
I SAID DON'T LOOK!
This is what's known as a good throwback. Surrounded by strip clubs and sex shops, but as legit as a nun on Sunday.
This is what's known as a good throwback. Surrounded by strip clubs and sex shops, but as legit as a nun on Sunday.

Baltimore Justice System

2 stars for Baltimore Justice System

Typically after the lunch break is when the waiting game kicks in again. Except a different kind this time. You have a 90% chance of not getting called into another court room during this two-hour stretch. That is what makes it harder than the pre-lunch stretch. At least you get this feeling like “it could be any minute, my number will be selected”, but the other stretch… You know you won’t get picked again and the feeling of your time being wasted is prevalent. Well you have that feeling either way… unless you’re one of those pricks with a cape on their back and filled with civic duty. In which case you’ll love it!

2017 Update

What a waste of friggin' time that was! They didn't call ANYONE for a court room, the entire day. Our Maryland tax dollars at work. I guess this means the criminals are on vacation? I notice the news has been pretty boring lately.

Comments

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  • lions44 profile image

    CJ Kelly 

    3 years ago from Auburn, WA

    I've been on jury duty a few times. I'm always shocked when the defense attornies pick me. Unfortunately, I was once assigned to a rape case that lasted a long time. Brutal. Lots of arguments in the jury room. On the one hand I'm glad people are thoughtful when considering evidence. You never want to convict an innocent men. But on the other hand, some jurors are unable to pass judegement on others, making the situation intolerable. I really hate jury duty, but I know its importance. My last jury call lasted two days, and one of the witnesses ran off to another country, and the case was thrown out. Oh well.

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