Apparently there is a list in the Halls of Justice in San Francisco. My name is at the top of it. Underlined. With a gold star next to it. Annotated with “Call this woman. She shows up.” That’s because every year, to the day, on which I was last called for jury duty (the absolute legal minimum time before they can call me again), they send me another summons. It’s not that I resent doing my civic duty. It’s just that I’m having a hard time believing that every single year — for the last two decades or so! — San Francisco has managed to cycle through every available juror and ended up with my name again.
Let’s do the math, because the math backs me up. Yes, there are a lot of people in the Bay Area, but only residents of San Francisco proper are eligible to serve on City juries. There are about 750,000 of us. Let’s be generous and assume a good half of us are under 18, non-citizens, recent felons or otherwise ineligible to serve. That gives us 375,000 for our potential pool. Now, over the years, I’ve guessed that, judging by the crowd in the jury duty waiting room, about 200 of us are called every week. But let’s up that to 400 in case I miscounted. Now let’s assume the courts convene for 50 weeks out of the year — which is really giving government offices credit for attendance. They are going to need 400 people per week as potential jurors. That leaves us with 20,000 potential jurors needed per year. Out of our potential 375,000 San Francisco eligible citizens! How can they come back to my name every 365 days? At this rate of calculation, my number should only come up every 16 years or so. Let’s half that number assuming I’m as bad at math as I think I am. That’s still only every eight years! Is it any wonder that several years ago, I declared myself The Last Living Juror in San Francisco?
The only thing that has kept me from lodging a formal complaint has been my incredible luck with jury duty. For the last twenty years, every year, I’ve either been on standby the whole time, required only to call in at 4:30 every day to find I don’t need to show. Or I’ve shown up one day for the jury pool and been told I’m not needed and I’ve served my time: “Thank you for your service”. Well, that luck just ran out.
This year’s service started in the same pattern. I was on standby Monday, then told I didn’t need to show Tuesday until 1PM. I expected that half day to be my only day of service. Then my name was called into a court as a member of a jury pool. Next the judge came out and started to explain to our group how our entire democracy would collapse into anarchy if we didn’t serve and that, furthermore, he’s only taking a doctor’s note testifying to terminal disease which will kill us this afternoon as an excuse. That’s never a good sign. Next we had to take an oath swearing that we would answer his next question truthfully or be dragged off in chains. He asked if there were any compelling reason why we couldn’t serve in the jury pool. Show of hands if you have no excuse. I raised my hand. Bam! I’m in the pool. Now he starts explaining that he thinks this trial will take until the first week of April — middle of the month at the outside — to complete. Which means this is not just your average Judge Judy traffic court/roommate dispute kind of thing. I’m on an O.J. level jury. And for the sake of government work, let’s double that time estimate. I could possibly be on a jury until May!
I watch Law & Order. I know how this goes. First we’ll be sequestered in a roach motel, living on cheap pizza and take-out. Then the Russian Mob, Mexican drug cartels or soldiers in the Masucci crime family will reach out and try to intimidate us into voting “Not Guilty.” From there, it’s Witness Protection somewhere in Montana. It’s not that I mind relocating to a rural setting. I’m doing that gig already. Only part time and in a place with better weather and more varied produce.
I have a week’s reprieve until my
sentence service. I have to show up next Tuesday for voir dire. (Law & Order fans, you know what that means.) I’ve got a week to figure out how to present myself as an extreme racist who would vote to convict anyone who wasn’t a White Protestant Republican. But then again, the perp could be a White Protestant Republican. So even if I locate a KKK or White Power T-shirt, I still risk looking like somebody’s dream juror.
I’m getting no sympathy at home. Perhaps that’s because Andy has several business trips scheduled during that time that just happen to involve famous ski resorts in Europe. (He claims it’s just a coincidence.)
I, on the other hand, am facing up to four weeks where I’m assuming I won’t be able to read a newspaper, get online or blog. In fact, I’m probably breaking the law by blogging right now.
Of course, if that’s a felony, it could be a way out…
Note: The image at the top of this post shows Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again. I chose it because the judge in this trial is a dead ringer for an older Jimmy Stewart. Which, in my wildest dreams, would make me Marlene Dietrich.