Monday, August 31, 2009

Jury Duty in the Land of Law & Disorder

Out here in California, the prison system is so bad that our Chief Entertainment Officer, Governator Schwarzenegger, has revisited the idea of letting thousands upon thousands of criminals back on the streets, simply because there is no room, not enough guards, and not enough money to keep them housed.

(I would make a comment about how it's great that His Astounding Muscularity chose to exercise his line-item veto to give ferocious tax breaks to Big Oil and another ridiculous enterprises over the wishes of state lawmakers, instead of continuing to fund other, lesser causes like education, disabled children, and the prison system - but I won't, since this isn't really a political commentary.)

Now, to be honest, I'm not really worried about having these "hardened criminals" (potheads) on the street. I refuse to live in fear. (I live in Chula Vista, which is too dull to know fear.) Most of those who would be released, would be released for drug offenses and other minor crimes. Yes, I do believe drug offenses to be minor crimes - unless, of course, you're committing violent acts in the course of using, selling, distributing, and/or acquiring.

California has a history of terrible criminal judicial decisions - Three Strikes, anyone? This is no big deal, it simply fits tidily into the mold of "What The Hell Were They Thinking?"

With the soon-to-be exodus of prisoners from the state's overcrowded youth hostels, imagine my surprise to be hit with my Summons for Jury Service. Yep, jury duty.

I've never shirked jury duty; I believe it to be one of the true responsibilities every American citizen has to accept. I feel disdain for those who try to get out of it, something I've never done. (Though I have been dismissed in the past - "You've done what? You write for who? Thanks, but you'll not be needed.")

I find it ironic that I might be sitting in judgment of those going to jail whilst His Peculiar Accentedness might be sending some right back out. It makes it seem a little worthless.

Apparently in California, one is given a group number and a reporting week. The lower your group number, the better chance you'll be called in to report. You call in the night before to see if you show up the next day. My group number is sort of middling, so I might get called in, I might not. My girl got hit with this just last month. She had a high number, and never had to report. She called in every afternoon to find out she didn't have to go in. This actually completed her service. (Jury duty is so commonplace out here, that a standard reason for disqualification from duty is that you were a prospective juror within the past year.)

I really want to get called in. I've decided that I'd like to record what goes on during this process and show it here. I find that, basically, everything here is backwards from the way it works in real life, so I'd like to see if civic duty is the same. I'm betting it is.

I'm going to update this daily by editing this post. It probably won't be anything more than, "Don't need to appear," but I find myself hoping that I'll get to sit there and take notes for the blog. Even though the state can't afford to keep them locked up, the local and county governments still love to try.

I picture myself telling some functionary, "I'll be writing notes on this for my blog," and I imagine he'll answer, "That's fine. You're still in."

MONDAY - Called in on Saturday - didn't have to report.
TUESDAY - Called in on Monday night. Didn't have to report. But they're about halfway to my number. If the pattern continues, I'll probably have to report Thursday or Friday.
[edit 2]
WEDNESDAY - Called in on Tuesday night. Didn't have to report. In fact, no one had to report. I don't know what's going on, but I'm oddly disappointed.
[edit 3]
THURSDAY - Called in on Wednesday night. This is two days in a row that they've said that no one is reporting. Unless things change spectacularly, this will have been a wash-out.
[edit 4]
FRIDAY - Looks like crime is down (or criminal court is down) in San Diego County. After only calling in 4 groups, they're done. My jury duty is...completed, at least for the next 12 months. I'm actually a bit disappointed, though I suspect everyone in the groups before mine are not.
So...anyone else completed their societal responsibility this week?


  1. Well this should be fun. I did my stint early this year. Was on call for a few weeks, never got selected but it was fun (and kind of depressing) to see how far some of the folks would go to get out of serving. Have fun big guy!

  2. Here;s the thing. If you put your financial (or for criminal court, freedom) in my hands, then you deserve what you get.
    In terms of lawsuits, if you're will to go as far as make me sit in a stuff room for a week to prattle on about your perceived grievances when I could be home writing, I'm really going to side with the more rational party. This is a beauty of our justice system. Just the threat of putting your future in my hands should be enough to force you to settle or accept a plea bargain.

  3. To me it's simple: we are given the right to vote, to determine the course of government. Our sole responsibility for that is to occasionally be asked to serve on a jury.

    It's a very small price; one I'm happy to pay.

  4. I have never been called to jury duty, which saddens me. To quote a friend, le sigh.