Solumnly Swearing – From the Bird’s Nest
I actually saw the notice on Christmas Day. It was wet from a recent rain and obviously no one had checked the mail the day before. But there it was, a little soggy but none the worse for wear.
I had been summoned for jury duty.
Now, isn’t THAT special. Merry Christmas to me.
It was only the second time it had ever happened, and considering how long I’ve been on this earth and been a registered voter, that’s not bad odds. The previous time had been about seven years before. And, I pretty much remembered the drill.
You go to the courthouse, you fill out a form. You sit and wait. And wait. And wait.
Now, first of all, if you have a fancy phone, i.e., one that has a camera, you cannot bring it into the courthouse. There are signs telling you that, and it’s on your subpoena, but now you’ve heard it again. Plan accordingly.
So I left my phone in my car, reluctantly, and went through security and up to the sixth floor. I got my form to fill out and answered their questions. Still not sure why they ask what religion you are, but hey, it’s on the form.
They’ve got magazines and a big tv in the room, but nothing looked appetizing.
But, if you go to do jury duty, you’ll always find at least one person you know. I mean, someone you haven’t seen in a while and someone you really want to visit with.
And, when I saw Jimmy Clarke walk into the room, I knew there was going to be some good conversation.
Many of you will know Dr. Jimmy Clarke as the former Dean of Students at UL. Some of you may know him from the years he did political analysis for KLFY-TV 10. And, some may know he was former Governor Kathleen Blanco’s Chief of Staff.
I knew Jimmy as a coach from SLYSI.
Back when I was really involved in the city’s rec program, Jimmy and I worked together in softball. There was no fast pitch in the rec department back then, and very few travel teams. Jimmy’s daughter Jessica (now Dr. Jessica Leger, compliance director at UL) was a good player. So was a little girl on his team named Summar Lapeyrouse.
I’ve got nothing bad to say about Jimmy Clarke. Well, okay, one thing.
He’s a San Francisco Giants fan.
We visited for a while and then the folks made a couple of announcements about what our day would consist of. Then the bailiff came in and swore us in and another man made some announcements and listed reasons why you could be excused from jury duty. And invited everyone who thought they should be excused to come and talk to him.
Then basically said you can try but you won’t be excused from jury duty.
After that they started to call us up by the first initial of our last name and gave us badges. After we got our badges we were free to go to lunch.
For me that was about 11:15. All this had happened in the first hour and fifteen minutes.
I left and went to the parking garage across from the courthouse where my car was parked and went to get my phone. As expected there were missed calls, text messages and emails. I dealt with the ones that needed to be dealt with and walked down Jefferson Street. I knew I was going to Antlers, a place where I had eaten a couple of times in the last month. Smothered pork chops was the special, with field peas, cabbage and rice and gravy. It was REALLY good.
Then I still had time and went back to my car. I called my mom to see how she was doing and fill her in on a couple of things from Louisiana. I answered an email, and texted a couple of people, then it was time to go back to the courthouse.
When I got there, I visited with C. J. from 99.9 KTDY for a few minutes. He looked bored. Admitted he was bored. Jimmy came back in and we sat down to continue our visit. It was 12:45.
Not long after we all got back, a woman walked up to the microphone and said they were going to start calling names and those whose name was called would go down and could be interviewed as potential jurors. They called 40-50 names.
Neither my name nor Jimmie’s was called. C. J.’s was. His boredom presumably was about to end. Those people left the room.
But the announcement had been made earlier that there was one judge with a docket and another who might have a docket. That made the chances that a ton of people would be needed rather slim. When our names were not called I told Jimmie I believed we would not be needed. We continued to visit.
At about 2:40, another announcement was made. One of the judges had all of her cases plea bargained and would not need a jury. That left just one judge. The lady making the announcement said he was pretty certain we would all be dismissed, but couldn’t let us go until the final judge gave the word.
That word came at 4:25pm. All of his cases were plea bargained. We were free to go with the thanks of the court.
I won’t call the day a waste. But we did sit there for basically 6.5 hours only to be told we weren’t needed.
And, you know, that leads me to an opinion.
The court pays jurors $25.00 per day plus $3.50 for gas. That’s 28.50 per day.
Times about 200 people at the courthouse that would make $28.50 for doing nothing. That’s $5,700 dollars.
I wonder if, in our judicial system, they would suggest there be a limit on the time you could plea bargain, like the Friday before a trial is to begin. If you haven’t worked it out by then you go to trial.
Then we could really do our civic duty instead of just sitting.