Today, for the first time in my young life, I had jury duty. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but that was only because I got a lot of reading for one of my Prague classes done. However, I still got a good chance to think about (and live tweet) my experience. And, to be frank, there are some issues that have (maybe) feasible solutions.
Now, I’m not trying to diss jury duty. I understand the importance of it. Even if I didn’t, I think it would have gotten drilled in my head enough by the (too thorough) explanations of the jury officer, the “training” video, the judge who greeted all of the potential jurors, and the other judge on the case that I was not impaneled on.
A few quick things to get out of the way before we start: I’m not saying these are necessarily huge issues, because most are relatively minor annoyances, but if 100 people have to miss work to come through every day, the Juror’s Office could be a tad more accommodating. Also, if there are huge issues with the process and whatnot, I honestly don’t know what they are. I’m not familiar enough with it to be able to speak on it. If I seem ignorant about something, chances are I probably am. Another thing: I’m not sure if these issues are universal or only apply to the Worcester (MA) Trial Court that I was at, but they still deserve to be mentioned.
Now, let’s get started.
Issue #1: The first issue doesn’t actually have to do with the Juror’s Office directly, but it is probably the biggest issue and needs to be addressed. The jury officer said at the beginning of the day that a lot of cases (even ones that have been going on for years) are settled the day that they’re supposed to be in court. This is a huge waste of everyone’s time and money. For example, I had to wait in the jury pool until the last possible minute (1 PM) because the defendant hadn’t pled guilty until then. There were several other cases today that myself and my fellow jurors were waiting to be called on that settled before they were about to call us in.
My Solution: If you’re in a legal dispute, don’t wait until the last possible minute to settle. It seems obvious, but clearly, it isn’t. Don’t forget that there is a room of 100 people sitting there for hours, waiting for you.
Issue #2: Parking. I had no idea where to park. The Worcester Trial Court is in the middle of downtown Worcester, right on Main Street. There was a huge lot right near the courthouse that said “COURT PARKING,” so I figured that was the place to go. Turns out, they were just trying to take advantage of the people by deceiving them and charging them $15. I’m glad I decided to drive around a bit and find $7 parking. This isn’t where the true issue lies though. By summoning you as a juror, they are expecting you to take a day’s pay cut to go and perform “your civic obligation.” So, not only are you making $0 that day, you are also having parking expenses. Turns out, there was validated parking, but it was never mentioned anywhere, was only in one specific lot, and still cost $5. Parking should be free.
My Solution: There are two possible solutions I can think of:
1. Don’t put the court in the middle of downtown. When building the court, put it in a relatively open, yet accessible place and have a huge (free) parking lot. I don’t think it matters if it’s in the county seat if the space isn’t available in that city. As long as it’s relatively close to the county seat and accessible, that’s fine.
2. Oops, you already put it in the busiest part of the city! Work out a deal with (or even buy) a parking lot nearby that people can park at for free. It doesn’t even need to be a big lot. Just enough for 100 jurors every day.
Issue #3: Sitting in the same place for 5 hours is booooooring.
My Solution: Let people know that they have jury duty that day and they need to be ready to come in whenever. When a jury is going to be needed, call them a half an hour ahead of time to allow for travel. If they end up having to wait an hour or so because things aren’t ready yet, it’s better than having to wait five hours. Either that or at least have better reading material for people who don’t think to bring their own.
Wonderful selection of intellectual reading material.
So that’s it. You listening Massachusetts?
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