I reported bright and early yesterday morning to the Los Angeles Superior Court in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Hill Street for Jury Duty. I took my orientation packet and sat in the large waiting room and, um, waited. Promptly at 7:30 am our jury coordinator, Betty, began her orientation. She had a voice like the narration on an airline security video. And man did she know her script. All queries were addressed and even inane questions got the same prompt airline-attendant-tone-of-voice with hand motions to match.
After a half an hour of filling out the short form that came with our summons and directing those who wanted to postpone or excuse their service to the appropriate place, we watched a few videos and sat to wait. The new system is on-call for five days/one day in the courthouse and/or one sworn trial. Today they had a great need for panels and about 115 of us showed up and by 9:30 Betty was calling off names to report to different departments.
I was part of the first group called and we went to Department 12 and waited for an hour as the jurors already empanelled on Friday returned for their continued service. The needed to fill only two seats on the panel plus two alternates. After the voir dire was completed we returned to the waiting room and I waited for all of ten minutes to be called again at 11:30 for a panel that was going to start at 1:30 – so I was released for lunch.
The courts are much more user friendly now and have lots for prospective jurists to do. While in the waiting room there’s the requisite TV, puzzles and magazines plus NPR has added something called Justice Talking which are audio pieces you can check out with a CD player and headphones. They also provide some great lists of restaurants and a brochure of museums (most have free admission for those with juror badges), sites of interest and restaurants. There are also Internet terminals where you can purchase time at $6.00 an hour. (No wifi.)
I grabbed a cup of chanticoô at the Starbucks in the plaza (the coffee in the snackbar next to the jury room was startlingly weak) and headed kitty-corner to Disney Concert Hall with my camera for an hour and a half and wandered around. It was a stunningly beautiful day with mild temps and an amazing blue sky.
Upon returning to the building I found that Department 32 had a continuance on the case and I was to report back to the holding pool. I amused myself with a 30-minute purchase on the Internet terminal and read a little. Another panel was called, another returned. Then at 3:40 Betty took final roll call and released us for the day. Little green slips attested to our fulfillment of our jury service for the next 12 months.
This is my fourth time doing jury duty in Los Angeles (the last time was Hollywood Municipal back in November ’01). I’ve done it back in the day when you reported every day, I’ve done it when you’re on call and report several times during the period and I have to say that this was the smoothest operation I’ve seen yet. They really seemed to value our time – every official thanked us for our service and cooperation. I hope that this sort of change helps to get juries that better reflect our peers.