Thursday, February 2, 2023

Jury Duty is a Joy

I recently had the opportunity to respond to a jury summons. After driving to an unfamiliar part of town, and parking and walking in, waiting in line to walk through the metal detector (that required me to take off all jewelry including my earrings!), and then waiting in line to check in for jury service, and then sitting with strangers on a hard bench for 30 minutes waiting for things to get started, all during a very busy time in the semester when I had other things I needed to be doing, I was primed to be grumpy.

The county clerk, and then a sheriff's deputy, and then the judge on the single case that needed a jury, each spoke to us, saying the same things about the importance of jury service. (OK.) The county clerk even requested that we all stand up and applaud ourselves for reporting. (Ugh.) 

But then we were reduced from about 200 people to 65 people, and we 65 were led to the courtroom for voir dire, where we learned it was a criminal matter with an accusation of driving under the influence with a minor passenger. I was impressed by the professionalism of the attorneys, the way they made this process of finding out who we were seem so natural and personable. I was shocked and impressed by the frankness of individuals who shared their personal stories of being arrested for DUI, or their escape from an abusive, alcoholic  ex-spouse, and how it might impact their participation in this matter. The defendant was in the courtroom through it all, knowing this system and the people participating, would decide his future in just a few days' time.

I was not at all surprised when I was one of the 51 who were dismissed at 2 PM, leaving 14 to sit in the jury box. Not only did the odds favor it, the defense attorney was an alumna of my law school. But I am thankful for being the experience, in a way I could not have foreseen before I went. It has been a long time since I have been in a courtroom. It was an excellent reminder of why I love this work, and what an awesome responsibility it is to be a member of the legal profession, and to be a part of educating and training future lawyers.

(Lisa DeLaTorre)

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