How to Survive Your First Day of Jury Duty

An unwritten rule about blogging is that if you’re called to jury service, you’re required to write about it. Yesterday was my first day at the Henry Mosk Criminal Court Building in downtown Los Angeles, and this is my post.

1. Show up late. The summons tells you to arrive at 7:30am, and to even allow enough time to get through security. However, they don’t really start checking names until at least 8:30am. So, sleep in, and grab McGriddle before schlepping it to the Court House.

2. Bring a book, a pad of paper, and if you’re bringing a computer, bring an extra battery. If you’re not assigned a jury pool, you could be in the holding room until 5:00pm, where there’s no wireless internet access and only a handful of power outlets. (to be fair, there’s a half dozen computers set up with paid web services). Now’s a good time to enjoy that old timey print.

3. Dress Appropriately. When you receive your summons in the mail, scan your juror i.d. badge and make it into a t-shirt. Show that you’re proud to serve on a jury! (you can see my t-shirt above… if you want to be a little more subtle and avoid possible contempt charges by a less humorous judge, you can make a golf shirt instead)

4. Be careful what you buy. If you grab a grande vanilla peppermint latte* from the Starbucks just outside the jury holding room, be advised that if you’re assigned to a jury pool, you may have to toss it before even sipping off the foam. That said, you may just want to bring a thermos so you don’t have to ditch your $3.90 when the judge is ready to see you.

5. Don’t want to serve? Shut the f up! (whoops – forgot it was the holidays) When the judge asks if there’s a reason you can’t serve, don’t think your time is more valuable that anyone else’s, even if you’re a doctor, teacher, student, or have a vacation lined up. The judge won’t care, and, frankly, its your civic duty. If you only want poor people with a bad education to serve on a jury, then I look forward to seeing what the verdict will be the next time you’re falsely accused of a crime or have to sue someone who may need some suing. (5000! wrote more about these people last year).

*Thats four pumps vanilla, two pumps peppermint. You’re welcome!

13 Replies to “How to Survive Your First Day of Jury Duty”

  1. I have jury duty next month and I think I’m the only one who looks forward to it. (Luckily, as a freelancer, I do have time.) I was on a jury once and it was fascinating, though not terribly exciting as it was lawyers suing other lawyers for unpaid services. The case was so ridiculous that I did wonder why it actually got to a jury trial and it took the jury about 5 minutes to say yes, the defendants are right and the plaintiffs are wrong. In fact, when the defending lawyer was making his closing arguments and lost his place for a moment, I almost called out — “Don’t worry dude, you got this one in the bag.” After it was all over, I was standing outside the courtroom and both parties came over to ask me my opinions about what had happened. At that point, the trial was over and I could say whatever I wanted. So I told them all the truth, that the plaintiffs had no business suing for this money and that they were lucky the jury wasn’t able to stick them with all court costs (we wanted to.)

    Okay, I’m a freak, I love jury duty!

  2. I’m one of those people that happen to enjoy serving jury duty, and wish I could serve for others, sure beats going to work.

    Back in the seventies, jury duty was a thirty-day service, today your lucky to serve one day, if at all.

    My last call to service was in July, I served two hours in Pomona before being excused, and my employer does not require us to return to work. So I was able to spend the remainder of the day at Venice Beach.

    Federal jury duty is the best, your paid forty-five dollars per day and round trip for gasoline from home to the court.

    I’m looking forward to finding that pinkish envelope inviting me back to jury duty again next year.

  3. Allow me to third the love expressed previously in the comments here. Last time I got called up I was *this close* to actually serving but the lawyers cut a deal at the last minute and the judge said thanks but no thanks and we were dismissed.

    I was genuinely bummed.

  4. I had to go last month. But there were only two cases on the docket that day. The first case settled, so they gave us a 3-hour lunch at 10:30 while the second negotiated. When we came back, we were only in the room for 15 minutes before we were dismissed. Quick, easy and painless.

  5. the last time i was called to serve it was juror appreciation week…and it was in the local hollywood courthouse (read: a very slow day). we got a goodie bag, krispy kreme donuts and an early release. not so bad…

  6. There’s a Starubucks there?? That’s awesome. I was in the Clara Shortridge Foltz building last time I had jury duty downtown and it didn’t have anything like that. I hope I draw the Henry Mosk building next time.

  7. “Juror Appreciation Week?!” Why isn’t every week Juror Appreciation Week?

    I, too, enjoyed my day at the courthouse. It was great people-watching and it was fascinating to see the cliques that formed through the course of the day.

  8. I had to do jury duty in May and I got snagged for a civil trial (usually longer than the criminal ones). I originally was called to the criminal courts building, but when they found out I got 10 days paid jury duty, they sent me over to the Clara Shortridge Foltz Courthouse. Anyway, I had a helluva time – I managed to make it into a daily field trip during lunch time – court lunches are an hour and a half! I also saw Ray Liotta while I was there.

  9. I’ve gotten a jury summons three times but have never had to physically go to the courthouse.

    I consider it a missed opportunity… I can spot guilty people in two second flat, just by looking at them!

  10. Hey 5000!, I was at the Clara Shortridge Foltz a few weeks ago for jury duty, and there actually is a Starbucks close by , just a block north of the building. I raced over to grab a coffee during our first break, and managed to get back in plenty of time.

  11. pssst: don’t tell anyone, but you can unplug the DSL line from the pay computer and plug it into your laptop for free internet access. I saw someone do this, wasn’t me. I always bring a book.

  12. I didn’t have to do anything except read a book at my last jury duty, but on the one before that, I did actually serve.

    The defendent was not an American citizen, spoke no English, and he was homeless. The 12 of us listened intently to the case, deliberated for a few hours the letter of the law, and came to a fair decision – I think. Of the 5 counts, we found hiim guilty of 2, acquitted of 3.

    This guy got a fair shake in our system and it made me very proud that he did. It was respectful, well run, and both lawyers talked to us afterwards to learn more about how we arrived at our verdicts and what things we considered important.

    I’ve always thought jury duty was a civic service that should be done proudly, but after that experience, I try to encourage my friends not to try to get out of it as well. As someone else said, if you’re falsely accused of a crime – or if you’re there to see justice done from the other side – you want intelligent, responsible people to be on that jury.

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