Here come da judge

You aren’t allowed to talk about what happens in the jury deliberation room, but I don’t think there is any restriction on talking about what happens in the jury selection pool room. I am on day four of jury duty. When you get summoned to jury duty it doesn’t necessarily mean you will get picked for an actual trial as jurors are selected randomly from a large panel. In the mean time, you cool your heels in the ‘jury lounge’. Lest you think this is equivalent to an airline lounge, it is more like waiting in the departure holding area at Heathrow Terminal 3 where you better have decided if you needed food or drink long before making the trek to the gate (although in its defense Heathrow does have helpful signs that tell you how long it will take to get from the last bastion of sustenance to your departure point, in increments of 30 minutes). But I digress. It is clearly a slow crime week as not a single, solitary jury has been pressed into service so far. This has provided ample time to observe and analyze the ecosystem and habits of the jury selection pool. Here’s what I can tell you:

1. When your number comes up, you will receive a jury summons in the mail that tells you where and when to show up for your mandatory five days of waiting in the jury pool (to be potentially augmented by however long an actual trial may last). There is a security line and x-ray machine at the entry of the court building just like the one at the airport. Once you pass this gauntlet, you proceed to the aforementioned jury lounge and present your summons at the desk. This is the first thing I find puzzling: Nobody asks for any ID. At all. At any time. They just assume you are the person whose name is on the summons. Now maybe there aren’t many people clambering to be a jury proxy, but I can’t possibly be the only person who discerns some security gaps in this system. Say for example you are a mafia boss who wants to avoid being sent up the river. All you need to do to stack the jury pool with your cronies, is to find out who is being called for jury duty on the week of the trial and pay them a few bucks to hand over their summons’.

2. The jury selection process has not yet entered the 21st century (or the last half of the 20th, for that matter). When you hand in your summons the gatekeeper at the door matches it to a slip of paper with your panel number and juror number, which goes into a wooden drum that looks like something your brother might have made in Grade 9 shop class when he was first learning to join pieces of wood together. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what literally makes our justice system go ’round. I am assuming at some point the Vanna White equivalent draws names from the drum, but as I said the criminals all must be pleading guilty this week. Anyhow, if I can find a recommendation box I will suggest they review some cross-industry best practices, perhaps starting with the Lottery Commission which seems to have pretty much nailed the random draw process.

3. Fortunately, the jury lounge is equipped with a few places you can plug in your laptop, allowing you to do something productive should you so choose. I spent my first few days writing a research report, for example, and several other people also spent their time communing with their keyboards. Some people chose to read the paper or other materials while warming the jury bench. The curious thing is the number of jury candidates who do neither. I’m guessing they were called for duty from a local Ashram and are spending their time perfecting their meditation technique. Or maybe they spent a lot of their High School career in the detention room deprived of sensory input and are enjoying the opportunity to revisit their miss-spent youth. Regardless, would you really think them worthy of a jury of your peers? I thought not.