Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Halls of justice

I had postponed jury duty in June (thinking at the time I might have to go to LA for "Wordplay") and told them to try again late August. Like clockwork, my summons arrived and I reported last Thursday.

It was an unfamiliar courthouse in Tribeca, reminding me of the time I served around 1980 in temporary facilities in an office building on Church Street. Across the street was the World Trade Center, and someone told us about the NYS employee cafeteria high up in one of the towers, where I would spend lunch hours gazing down at the Statue of Liberty and the sun glinting off the water. Sigh.

I overestimated the time it would take to get there (lower Manhattan might as well be Newark or Philadelphia; it's a whole other city), and arrived 45 minutes early with one other lone juror already seated. The court clerk greeted us and I settled in with my many reading materials. I figured there would be plenty of opportunity to plow through the 4 magazines, 1 book, 1 crossword book and 2 Enigmas I brought. I stopped short of bringing the laptop and iPod, since I wasn't sure that was allowed, or if there was wifi.

People eventually arrived in the smallish (around 75 seats) jury room, your usual Manhattan cross-section. Almost no one is exempt these days, including lawyers. The chairs were much nicer than I remembered from past service, leathery brown and comfortable. Most people had their heads in their books and newspapers, but a lone older lady and man in front were chatting up a storm.

The woman in charge told us not to use cell phones (to my relief, since a man in front had already conducted 2 annoyingly loud conversations), but that laptops were OK. In fact, the court provided 2 machines at carrels in back for 20 minute periods. We watched an intro film, then lined up to hand in our summons and pick up materials including "Jury Pool News" which has a crossword on the back. I took a bunch of old issues and did all the puzzles, which all had the same theme ("legal terms").

Rain had been forecast, but at lunchtime, the weather was still sunny (the heavens opened up on the way home later). I got a slice of white pizza on Chambers St. and then walked up Greenwich where the Tribeca Street Fair had been held. After lunch, my name was called for a voir dire, and we went to assigned seats in a room off to the side. I passed 2 people working on a jury duty puzzle but refrained from helping.

The case was medical malpractice, expected to last 10 days. The time didn't bother me, but I wasn't sure I could be fair in this subject area. I told them my father was a prominent colon and rectal surgeon (and thus had certainly performed the procedure in question, which I had even had myself without complication), my sister is a radiologist, and my brother-in-law is a lawyer specializing in defending medical providers. They stopped me there, lest I prejudice the prospective jurors and said they'd interview me privately later. Other people seemed biased toward the elderly plaintiff.

Despite my background, I wanted to have an open mind. My father was often asked to fix cases other doctors botched up, so I knew doctors (other than my family members, of course) were not infallible. Daddy often was asked to testify as an expert, and did so on both sides, depending on the merits of the case. On the other hand, because of all the litigation, my sister had such a high malpractice premium that she could not afford to work part-time as a freelancer (she now does work part-time but her employer pays the premium).

On Friday, we returned to our assigned seats and the questioning continued. They pulled a few people out for private questioning, but not me. They then announced 8 jurors (of the 12 needed), dismissed everyone else, and called in new people from the main pool for questioning to fill the remaining slots. It was getting toward lunchtime, and the court clerk had everyone not involved in this case go to a different room. She had the happy news that we were free to go, and handed out our proofs of service. I remembered being dismissed early like that while I was working and how I went home instead of heading right back to the office (sorry, Sarah, or anyone else from Met who might be reading this).

During the two days, my name was announced many times. Apparently no one saw "Wordplay."

I got lots of reading done at court, and continued this at home. I've been jumping between multiple books and magazines, to keep things varied. I just started a book that has sucked me in so much I'm staying with it exclusively for now.

I considered seeing Kid Beyond, a.k.a. Murdoch, tonight. I'm sure he's amazing. However, I was told it gets LOUD and I can't take LOUD. Sorry, Kid!

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