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JURY DUTY: A NECESSARY EVIL

Posted by Tim Bryce on January 27, 2011

I’ve been summoned for jury duty twice. Both times I had mixed emotions about serving. On the one hand I understand and appreciate the need for a jury of your peers, which I consider an important responsibility for being a citizen of the United States. There are still a lot of third world countries out there who do not provide for such jurisprudence and believe you are guilty until proven innocent, as opposed to the other way around. On the other hand though, we are always summoned at the worst possible time. For example, you are called to serve just as you are preparing to go out of town either on important business or an expensive nonrefundable vacation. I think it’s a “Murphy’s Law.” In my case, I had some important projects I was working on at the time and felt the summons to be an imposition. Although I dutifully presented myself, I was not in the best of moods. Fortunately I was never actually selected to a jury and allowed to leave. Good thing for the defendant too as I was in a hanging mood by the time I got to the court house.

Here in Florida, you are given a few weeks notice to appear for jury duty. Frankly, I would prefer to get a notice six months or more in advance so I can effectively schedule around the jury duty. Unfortunately, county bureaucrats couldn’t care less about a person’s time.

Down here in Florida, you can be compensated $15.00 per day for the first three days of service if you are retired, unemployed or your employer does not pay your regular wages while you are serving. It’s not that I personally need the money, but I don’t know too many people who can get along on just $15 per day. A daily bus pass in my county costs $4.50, leaving you $10.50 to go wild on. No wonder people begin to diet when they are summoned for jury duty. By the way, your jury payment is considered taxable income. You just can’t win.

There is a lot of “hurry up and wait” involved with serving on a jury. In my neck of the woods, you are first asked to check in, take a number, fill out a form, and wait in a holding pen where you watch a brief video on your responsibilities as a juror. Next, you are called from the pool by ticket number for the various cases on the docket that day. If your number is not called, you can go home (with no apology for the inconvenience). However, if your number is called, you must go through a jury selection process whereby you may be interviewed by counsels for both the prosecution and defense. In my case, I was asked a lot of strange questions about this or that. So much so, I thought I was the one on trial and not the defendant. Whatever I said, I must have answered incorrectly as I was excused from serving, again with no apology for the inconvenience.

I believe my grandmother in Buffalo, New York set a record for serving on juries as she was called at least a dozen times over the years, leading us to believe she worked for the courts up there and not her regular job. Actually she was a model jurist and enjoyed listening to the various cases. She was also proud to serve as she saw it as her civic duty to do so.

We would all probably like to serve on the types of juries we see on TV’s “Law & Order” where we are dazzled by lawyers like Jack McCoy, or perhaps pick an argument apart as the jury did in the movie, “Twelve Angry Men.” The reality though is most trials lack the drama and histrionics as portrayed by Hollywood. You are probably 100 times more likely to serve on a case involving theft or an automobile moving violation than to serve on a juicy murder trial.

Most people tend to roll their eyes whenever you bring up the subject of jury duty, including myself. I wish I had my grandmother’s zeal for serving, but the bureaucrats have turned it into an imposition as opposed to something you want to proudly perform. I guess no matter how you slice it, jury duty is a necessary evil.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

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Tune into Tim’s THE BRYCE IS RIGHT! podcast Mondays-Fridays, 11:30am (Eastern).

Copyright © 2011 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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