So here I sit and wait. I have received a summons to do my civic duty by appearing for Jury selection at the Superior Court.
Unlike the 99.9% of the people waiting with me I find the whole thing quite interesting. Actually, I rather think it would be a great life experience to sit on a jury. I think most of the grumblers would agree but whine and chew because it is the “accepted” reaction to receiving a summons. Hey, Law and Order isn’t the longest running and largest franchise in TV history because people are not into courtroom drama.
I have no idea of the procedure in which I am now involved. My first exposure was literally that, standing outside in the cold in a very long line inching my way forward to enter the building. Once inside the doors, we are all asked to empty our pockets, remove coats and hand over purses and or briefcases in order to be searched. Once again, whining from the masses. Me? Hell if it means that I will not be shot by some deranged lunatic while doing my civic duty, a strip search would be fine with me.
Next we are told to sit in the waiting room until we are called into the courtroom. No phones, nothing on our heads including glasses. Huh? If one wears glasses they are to kept off the top of ones head. Okay, no idea but there must be some explanation.
We are then herded into the very nicely appointed courtroom where we are advised that we would be called by roll number to be seated in the jury seats and then questioned if required by the lawyers for the plaintiff and the defense. The case is a civil matter involving a car and a truck incident that took place in 2006 in London. Oh and by the way the case will take 6 weeks. An audible gasp could be heard or rather felt throughout the courtroom.
The Judge explains that while it is a duty as a citizen that we embrace the opportunity to sit on a jury there are those for whom doing so would be a hardship and the court does not wish that to be the case. Also in order to be a jurist one must a) be a Canadian citizen b) must understand the English language spoken in the courtroom c) must be able to hear what is being said in the courtroom by all parties.
Now the real entertainment begins as one by one numbers are called and people make their way to the front of the courtroom where they are asked by the presiding judge if “there is any reason that you feel you are not be to sit on this jury”. The litany of excuses is absolutely incredible!
“I am the only person that can do the job at work”
“ I am Power of Attorney for my very ill mother.” “Is she ill, asks the Judge” “Well no but she is in a Seniors’ home”
“My religious beliefs forbid me to pass judgement on others”
“I work shift work”
“I have children”
“I have a doctor’s appointment”
I counted nine “I am a teacher”. Obviously they don’t teach civics class.
Another gentleman explained he had a number of reasons he was unable to be on a jury. He runs two businesses, he has a family, apparently the whole world would come crashing down if he was “out of commission for the duration of a trial and then finally was honest by stating “and frankly I don’t want to do it”
One gentleman upon being asked if he felt there was any reason he would not be able to sit on the jury replied, “No Ma’m, I would be honored to do my duty”. It was all I could do to not jump up and give this fine man a one person standing ovation!
While sitting and listening to literally dozens of people trying to formulate excuses to “get out of jury duty”, it occurred to me how awful it would be to know as a plaintiff or a defendant in a court case that the people that were deciding your fate were chosen for doing so because for the most part they had the least viable excuses of those from the selection panel. How sad to think that one’s fate can rest in the hands of those who do not give a damn and would go to just about any lengths to avoid performing their civic duty.
Truly is it any wonder that police officers, lawyers, courtroom staff become tired and jaded when they listen to the very people they work to serve insult their efforts by turning their backs on their responsibility? I would hazard a guess it would be these same people that do everything they can to weasel out of jury duty that cast aspersions and make remarks about “lenient” sentences and “letting them get away with murder”.
So, my “day in court” was a good experience. The court staff were pleasant and so very courteous. I met some very nice people, enjoyed a couple of really good laughs and to top it all off received a lovely compliment from a fellow panelist who kindly offered that upon seeing me this morning thought to herself what a classy woman I appeared to be. Well, all I can say is there is a trial taking place without the benefit of a very intelligent and observant jurist. Thanks Darlene.