1/12/2010

My Civic Duty


My husband has been a lawyer for twenty years now. I’ve never really known what he does. In the courtroom, I mean. He is a litigator and spends a good bit of time on that stage. But today I received an inkling. I got called for jury duty and, for the first time ever, didn’t qualify for an exemption.

Granted, this was a criminal case and my husband does civil cases, but I still saw the process from the other side. And what did I find? I found it boring! We sat there while both the assistant DA and the defense lawyer droned on and on, occasionally asking a question to which we must respond. They nitpicked words and other things, sometimes twisting the meaning of someone’s answer, as lawyers often do. (I know. I live with one.)

The most interesting part was watching the others on the jury panel. I noticed that some people liked to talk and were more than happy to jump in with a whole story in response to a simple question. I also noticed those determined to be argumentative. Not sure if those were trying to get on the jury or get dismissed from it! But mostly I watched a group of normal citizens (and one police woman) trying to do their civic duty to the best of their ability.

No, I didn’t get picked. I think it never quite got to me, but if it had, I feel sure I would have been stricken by the defense for my answer to the question (specifically directed at me): So you are telling me that if a police officer knocked at your door and said they’d come to arrest your child, you wouldn’t assume your child is innocent? I took an oath to answer truthfully, so I said no. I’ve never assumed innocence. We are all sinners and given the right circumstances and state of mind, can do things we never imagined we’d do. Besides, while my child might not be guilty of the charge, I’m sure I would find them almost certainly guilty of something—even just of poor judgment.

Doing my civic duty was an interesting though not altogether pleasant experience. In the end, I find myself hoping I don’t have to repeat it soon. Then again, maybe it would be different on the civil side of the courthouse.

1 comment:

Laura in Texas said...

Great post, D'Ann. Interesting to hear your take on the process. As a lawyer, though, I just had to comment on one thing you said -- about how lawyers often twist the meanings of other people's words. Let me just say . . . while that might sometimes happen, I'd argue (bc I'm a lawyer!!) that more often we simply are aware of, and take advantage of, the fact that many words have more than one meaning, and often people are "sloppy" in how they say things. As I often tell my kids, "Precision in language is everything."

:-)