This past week I did my duty as a citizen of the United States of America by serving on a US Federal Court Jury. WOW..what a lesson on the law.
- So, what is the big deal with serving on a jury?
- Isn’t jury duty the most inconvenient thing the government can force you to do?
- And, what is there to be excited about for taking four days out of the business week to listen to other people’s problems?
All good questions and all are questions I heard from people in the jury section pool I suspect do not have a real good grasp on reality.
The fact is, the big deal on serving on a Federal Jury is you are not going to hear cases on someone wanting to recover damages from someone else running over their cat. In Federal Court, the cases are very complex and sown together with more plots and sub-plots than Hollywood would never be able to create.
Yes, it is a huge inconvenience to be all of the sudden be sent a letter telling you are summons to the courthouse to be on jury duty. But Folk, I see it this way. If I had a situations come up that I had the misfortune to be sued or had to file a law suit I would so hope you…someone I do not know…., would think of helping me determine who is right and who is not. That is how I look at what a juror is being asked to do and really glad the jury selection procedures helps people who are selected for jury duty not be inconvenienced any longer than necessary.
What I experienced was exciting and fortunately I was selected to be on a four day case and not the 3 to 6 month cases several dozen of the others in the jury pool were selected to serve on. More importantly, the case I was put on was on Labor Laws which are laws that everyone needs to know in more detail.
But why am I blogging about Jury Duty? The answer is simple. During my four days of Jury Duty I saw so many people who had never served on a jury clearly not understanding the basics of judiciary procedures. I found it very strange how even common sense was not used when it came time to say or do something in courtroom.
Sooooo, I thought I would add to my public service efforts by offering you a few pointers.
Much of what I have to offer came from what I experienced these past four days. I offer this in hopes it will help YOU avoid problems when you get the honor to serve on jury duty.
Don’t Act A Fool
Unfortunately, there are still those who do not see things as they really are and seem to take what they see on TV as their source on what is true human behavior. I am talking here about those who feel strongly that acting like a fool will get them somewhere.
Screaming at a Federal Judge, or not showing any respect toward others who are on the jury panel really is not going to win anyone friends. Yes, these people are out there and it seems jury summons brings them all to the courthouse. Maybe that is the plan since I understand that people have been sent to jail for acting a fool during juror selection.
Fortunately, there are some very strong men and women wearing US Marshall badges who are very well trained in knowing how to hit a person’s pressure points that will incapacitate a human being’s nervous system. You don’t get to see how they do this on TV..only in real life when you are called to Jury Duty…so, that was interesting…and scary.
Bottomline: The best way to get out of Jury Duty is to just ask to speak to the Judge in Private and then call him a “M#therF@$ker” to his face. Not stand up in the court room to proclaim all of the other jurors in the room are “C#ckSu$ers” for not thinking he is a MF.
Keep Your Mouth Shut and Ears Open
It doesn’t take you long to realize the best policy to sitting through “voir dire”, the term used to describe the procedure used to select a jury, is to shut up and listen.
Next advice, answer the questions truthfully!!! Do not try to second guess the answer by making something up that is not true. Remember, you are under oath, and saying something that is not true will get you into more trouble than serving on the jury.
The best attitude to have is to feel you Are Going to Get Selected and not have an attitude that you are going to say anything to get kicked off. The odds are you are going to get selected no matter how you answer the question. So, it would be best to set your head straight before you go to jury duty that you are going to get selected. It sure cuts down on the stress.
The odds are pretty good if your are in the first 15 jurors on the call list to the courtroom to be paneled for a 7 person juror you are going to be selected.
Once you get called to be sworn in, you are on the clock and the case begins.
Following are pointers on how to manage your time on Jury Duty.
Time Your Morning Coffee
The judge has control of your breaks and lunches and when you go home. Best advice is to cut back on the coffee and water intake…squirming in the jury box does not get you a potty break.
Get Use to the Courthouse Cafeteria
Lunch time..generally an hour. Sometimes the Judge will give the jury a few minutes extra if asked. But warning…if the case gets behind..like nearly all of them do…you may have to give back those few minutes to the Judge the next day.
Security in a federal courthouse is rightfully tight. Moving around inside the security is good, but when you go out to lunch, getting back in takes a lot of time. Being late back from lunch will get the juror…all of them…a reprimand from the judge. This is not a Fun Event and could result in some consequences for the entire jury. So, don;t be late back from break or lunch.
Your choice is, bring your own lunch, or get use to the Cafeteria in the Courthouse. Most Federal Courts house thousands of people and will have a Cafeteria to service this captured crowd.
Generally speaking the food is going to be on the average side. I’m not sure I have seen a review of the cafeterias for all of federal courthouses. That might be something one of my food blogging peers, who has a sponsor, might want to take on, but I would be safe to say the food is going to be middle of the road, Hamburgers, sandwiches, maybe a Blue Plate Special.
The Cafeteria does have its advantages. In Federal Court the jury is assigned a security officer that will go with them to the cafeteria to keep other attorneys, plaintiffs and defends from talking to the jury. Many federal courthouses will have a separate room for the jurors to eat so that does not happen.
This means you will get an express elevator to the cafeteria, put in front of the line and placed in a room where there are no attorneys or witnesses to any trials. Yes, you are special to the court, so you get special treatment.
Enjoy the Perks While You Get Them
There are other perks to being on a federal jury. Riding the DART Rail here in Dallas for Free sure makes it easy to get to court and home.
Having a security guard to block off the elevators from stopping on every floor, for 15 floors, so the jurors can go home quickly is nice.
Having the entire Courtroom stand up before you enter the room and rise when you leave the room is kinda kewl as well.
Not that I liked the fact that any attorney or plaintiff/defendant in any court in the courthouse cannot be anywhere near a juror for any case, it was kinda kewl to watch them fly away like a covey of quail when you walk down the hall outside the courtroom.
Enjoy the respect while you can. I’m thinking of wearing my Juror badge around the house to see if it would keep me from doing yardwork.
How To Look Like You Are Not Falling Asleep
One thing is for certain, no matter how comfortable the jury box chair is, if you sit in it long enough you are going to have the urge to fall asleep.
However, as a juror, you need to make sure you capture all of the evidence. Plus, falling asleep in the jury box could cause a mistrial or a reprimand from the Judge…or worse, be removed from the trial and courtroom. Thinking that falling asleep in the jury box will get you out of juror duty is again the wrong thinking since the judge could just tell you to come back next week rested up and go through all of the hassel again.
There are somethings you can do to stay awake. Here is what I do…
- Take deep breaths through your nose….hold it, and let it out slowly. Do that a few times…it gets fresh oxygen to the brain.
- Lift your chin up, clinch your teeth for 30 seconds then let go. This gets the blood to come to head.
- Rest your elbow on the arm of the chair, hold your head with your thumb under your jaw, your pointer finger punched in behind your ear just under your skull while your face rests on your other three fingers. Keep your eyes on the speaker and then start applying pressure with your pointer finger to the point behind your ear up under your skull. Hold it for ten seconds and let go. You could even massage that pressure point with your pointer finger. This will also bring more blood to your brain.
- Blink your eyes more frequently. Most of the time, sleepiness comes on from being dehydrated. The first thing to dry out are your eyes. Blinking more frequently…not faster…will bring more moisture to your eyes and sinuses. Blinking faster might draw attention to you from one of the attorneys thinking you are flurting with them….not kewl.
I’m sure there are many other methods of staying awake in the juror box. These are just the ones that makes it look like you are not doing anything the people in the courtroom will notice.
Knowing Court Procedures and Terms is a Plus
One of the big advantages I have many people do not have is, I have served on jury duty a number of times. So this tour of duty was not my first rodeo. The one thing I have learned from experience is courtroom procedures. Plus, my wife is an attorney and a large percentage of my friends are attorneys, so I get the opportunity to ask questions to them about courtroom procedures.
Knowing this information makes me much more comfortable and allows me to react to things going on in the court without getting all stressed out.
My Recommendation to you is, once you get your jury summons you go to YouTube and learn more about Jury Service..what it is all about, what to expect and learn the rules. This will give you knowledge of understanding of what just went on in the courtroom.
Here is a video I found interesting and provides information on what goes on in the courtroom.
This video is a little Old and Long, but WOW, does it tell everything you will deal with as a jurist.
Hope all of this helps you understand what jury duty is all about. Let me know how I can help.