San Francisco’s court system just can’t quit me. For more than twenty years, practically every year to the day when I was last called, they call me up again — barely waiting the minimum time allowable between service stints. As I’ve chronicled here, the numbers just don’t add up. It’s impossible that San Francisco cycles through every available juror in city limits in a year’s time and comes back to my name. Clearly there is a file on me somewhere in the Hall of Justice with a big gold star next to my name and a notation in red ink that says, “Call this woman. She’ll show up every time.”
Friends tell me, “Just don’t show. Nothing will happen.” However, I do take my civic duty seriously, and I won’t deny I’m somewhat affected by the warnings that threaten fines and jail for shirking. But regardless, San Francisco isn’t giving me any wiggle room.
As some faithful followers of this blog and my Facebook updates will note, I was called for jury duty a few weeks ago. On the first day, the judge called us into a room, told us we were on a jury and ordered us to show up a week later. I chewed my fingernails for a week fearing that I’d be on slugger Barry Bonds‘ trial or an infamous murder trial for the suspected killers of an investigative journalist, both of which were due to start the week of my ordered service. But, to my delight, the morning that I was due to report, I checked the automated jury reporting information line, punched in my juror group number and found I was on standby for the day. Standby duty continued for the rest of the week and, on Friday, I congratulated myself for again serving but not being stuck on a trial.
Too soon. It seems, when the judge orders you to appear for a trial, you are moved to a special group, one without a number. Calling in to the jury reporting information line just gets you instructions for the recycled group number which no longer applies to you. Long story short. I was called up again to serve another week. Sort of a jury do-over.
Struggling to find some sort of silver lining, I left early to walk to court through one of my favorite areas of San Francisco. This would be the Beaux-Art heart of the City. It’s a roughly eight block square where the Temples of Government — from City Hall to the Courts to various State and City government buildings — face or at least are within neighborly nodding distance from the Temples of Culture — The War Memorial Opera House, Davies Symphony
Hall, the Asian Art Museum and Herbst Theater. Ah yes, my children, there was once time when the city planners and citizens of this city — and many others across America — saw Government and Culture (capitalized!) as shining beacons of our civilization. In homage, they placed the glorious marble and gilded buildings housing them at the strategic center of town. In so much esteem did turn of the century San Franciscans hold their government, that less than a decade after the great earthquake, they erected a City Hall that still boasts the fifth largest dome in the world.
And how things have changed. But I digress…
I passed my second week on standby, only to be called up on the last day of service. Since I’d served one day in court and four days on mistaken stand-by in my first week, then four days on stand-by in my second week, today’s attendance means I’ve served six days or eleven days, depending on how you want to count it. Then I was assigned to a trial scheduled to start next week and run for a week. That would put me serving on jury duty for the better part of the month of April. Not fair when I’ve served my five required days.
And that’s what I told the judge. It was a tense moment, but, after giving me the gimlet eye, he let me off for another year. That will probably be a year to this date, on which I will no doubt be called again.
I do take my civic duty seriously, but this is getting out of hand. I did find out during this stint that one of the only sure-fire ways to avoid jury duty legally — at least in this state — is to be convicted of a felony. I’m not really contemplating that avenue. But San Francisco, give me a few years break so I won’t be tempted!
I have never been called for jury duty. I will be 48 in July. I’ve been an active registered voter since the age of 18, and my driver’s license is always renewed promptly. I believe the reason I never get called is that I have a penchant for sending letters and e-mails (and making the occasional irate phone call) to politicians when they do something particularly boneheaded. I’m not a nut job who constantly harasses these people; it only happens once or twice a year when something really bothers me. I do believe that a big part of an American’s civic duty is telling our presidents, governors, Congress members, and local pols where to get off when they screw up. I suspect I have been put on some kind of list. I kind of feel left out, not to mention slightly insulted, to tell you the truth.
I, too, am a vocal ranter at politicians local, state and Federal. Although I have been known to send letters of praise to those — on both sides of the aisles — who do something I deem worthy. One of my treasured possessions is a return letter I received from George H.W. Bush after I wrote to tell him that I was happy with some legislation he’d supported, even though, as a Democrat, I hadn’t voted for him.
My point being, that writing to your politicians doesn’t keep you off the jury duty roster. At least not in San Francisco.
I’ve only been called in once. Perhaps because there is a large ratio of voters to choose compared to a small amount of trials actually held in my county. I’m with you on the idea that it is my civic duty – I couldn’t not go.
It turned out to be a lawsuit against a cow hauler and one of the local slaughter houses. Those suing were injured by cattle turned loose after a traffic accident. I’d known the dispatcher since college, even dated her once. So I was right outta there.
The fact that Lisa does routinely, um, engage local politicians in her own inimitable fashion suggests that San Francisco might not in fact use jury duty as a cudgel against the citizens. Which is not to say that East Podunk somewhere doesn’t.
Glad to hear you stepped up and said something – could they have kept you on infinite standby??
I too am called every year almost to the day. Alameda County does the ‘One Day/One Trial legislation.