Jury duty. The two words that strike fear and loathing in my heart.
I received my dreaded Baltimore City jury summons in the mail recently.
It comes every year, regular as rain. There is so much crime in Baltimore, and not a few people who can’t serve on a jury due to their own prior convictions, that they are desperate for potential jurors.
They’d call me more than once a year if they could, but the law requires 365 days between summonses. I’m not sure if I receive the summons on day 366, but it feels like it.
I’ve lived in Baltimore for so many years and been summonsed so many times, that I swear I could fill in for a judge if she had a family emergency. “Counsel, is Juror #535 acceptable to the Defense?” I would ask. “Your Honor, the Defense respectfully objects to Juror #535,” would come the reply. And on and on, ad nauseam.
Jury Duty Cheats
Over the years, I’ve developed a number of jury duty cheats and optimizations. Show up one hour late – no one cares and you don’t miss anything important. Park in the $7 Guilford Avenue garage – a steal! Use the faster Fayette Avenue courthouse entrance. Go straight for the Quiet Room and take the comfy sofa seat when someone goes to collect their $15 jury duty cash.
Honestly, I don’t mind jury duty, as long as there is no chance of being placed on an actual, you know, jury. It’s a free day filled with reading, sloth, a leisurely lunch, and collection of that $15 jury duty service payment.
Extended Trial = Problem
I understand that they need citizens to guarantee a trial of peers. I understand that it’s my civic duty to participate if called. But placement on a jury trial would be problematic.
I don’t get any work credit for jury service (unlike my previous job), so every day out of work would get chalked up as vacation. Like most Americans, I don’t get enough vacation allowance as it is. And I could easily imagine an extended trial sucking up every single vacation day…and then some, costing me 3-figures a day.
In recent years, Nora has learned and shared some tactics to significantly reduce the chance of being placed on a jury. When you get the summons, immediately reschedule for a day when judges and court personnel are likely to be out – the day after Christmas or the day before Thanksgiving. Another tactic is to just show up a day before or after your summons date, which seems weird that it’s even permissible.
Of course, there’s less honest approaches, like acting that you have a deep-seated bias against cops, or pretending that your religion forbids jailing of citizens. Personally, my religion forbids these ‘more creative’ approaches.
Tripping While Blocking & Tackling
I had so many of these tactics swirling in my head that I forgot the most basic step of all: Calling the night before to see if my number qualified for service the next day. They always summons the maximum number of people, then sometimes reduce the quantity who actually have to report, based on case requirements.
Instead, I just reported, and when I went to collect my $15 payment, was informed my number wasn’t included that day. Not only did I not collect $15, I was out $7 for parking, and two hours of my life that I would never get back. What a waste.
Still, I was relieved. I’d dodged the jury service bullet (no pun intended) for another year.
My relief was not only $$-related. I also still had lingering PTSD from the one time I was picked for a Baltimore jury 20 years before. Tune in next week to find out what happened.