Wednesday, February 20, 2002

AH, JURY DUTY in the District of Columbia. I've been put on a jury twice before, both times with depressing results, but I don't have the knee-jerk dread of the chore that a lot of people do. If it didn't mean some hardship for my co-workers, I'd be quite eager to serve. As a retiree, no doubt, I'll cherish those summonses.

Yesterday I had to be at the courthouse at 8 a.m. (after having worked till 11:30 the night before) to begin my day of waiting around. I can be quite impatient with waiting around, but this is a process where you know what's in store for you from the start, so why whine? I got put on a jury "panel" pretty quickly, but it was a very large jury panel and the parties in the case wanted to interview each potential juror individually. They didn't get around to me, so I have to return today (at the more humane hour of 11:30).

I'm forbidden by oath, of course, from discussing the specifics of the case, but I do have one observation: Something has changed in our society when it comes to the response to the "Does anybody have any questions?" question. It used to be that most everyone was like me: mum, even if we had questions. Today, however, the questions flow freely. Sometimes it's the teacher's-pet "Didn't you mean to assign us somework?" type of question, but more often it's a reflection of extreme stupidity.

The questionnaire asked something like "Have you ever been a [occupation deleted] in the District of Columbia or elsewhere?" "Your Honor," came the question. "Does that include in other cities?"

The questionnaire asked something like "Have you ever received training in [specialty deleted]?" "Your Honor," came the question. "How far back do you want to go on that?"

Later, the judge got interrupted, as judges do, while parceling out the come-back-tomorrow times for us panelists based on the rows we were sitting in. As he tried to get back to telling us when to come back, another interruption: "Your Honor? What time do the rest of us have to come back?"

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