Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ladies And Gentlemen Of The Jury

I got a jury summons last week.

I’ve done jury duty once. It was a two day trial over a traffic accident. Some idiot kid was high and hit and spun a taxi at full speed on MLK late one winter night. The driver, an immigrant from Somalia, suffered some pretty severe injuries, trauma and was out of work for several months because of it.

It was an easy case to decide guilt on. Not so easy to determine damages. There was a very vocal minority in the jury room unwilling to acknowledge the trauma that an accident has on someone. Therefore, assigning a dollar value to it was even less clear to them.

We ended up awarding lost wages and a modest amount of compensatory damages for pain and suffering. The total award was something like $28,000 of which only about $7,000 was pain and suffering.

I still feel guilty about that. I fought hard for more damages but was not persuasive enough. It’s hard enough to negotiate something with people you know and trust, even harder to do so with eleven strangers, some of whom would rather be anywhere but in a jury box. I feel like I failed that man.

But I did appreciate the experience and looked forward to doing it again. Civic duty or some such thing.

So, last week the summons arrived. Special Jury selection starting March 28. Up to four weeks service time expected, maybe more. Wow. This is either for a grand jury or a big trial. Immediately I started to calculate how this would affect my April. Kip’s wedding. The day off I had planned. Timbers soccer. The expected dates with that one perfect woman who I still have yet to meet.

Hmmm. I’m not so sure I could do this. The clincher came when I went to work the next day and checked our HR policy. Short duration jury duty is not a problem. You can get up to two weeks pay and the time off. But longer than that and you are out of luck. So, with regret, I returned the forms in the provided postage paid envelope, and set out to wait for the court to respond.

I got deferred. Yay.

So, come October I’ll get another shot at it. It may not be the special jury, although I’d be very willing to serve on it. Being of sound judgment and so forth. But regardless, I will have the chance to contribute modestly to our justice system. I find the coolio in that. I really do.

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