I put it off when my number first came up last fall, but today is the day when I am serving my community as a juror. Well, a prospective juror, anyway. I and another 150 or so of my fellow Multnomah County residents are hanging around in the jury room on the ground floor of the old courthouse, waiting to see if we'll get to sit in judgment in one of the courtrooms upstairs.
There have been three roll calls so far since 8:00 this morning, and my name hasn't been included. And so the sitting around continues. It's a huge room we're assembled in here -- around 20 rows of leather chairs, eight across or so, some tables and couches in the back, some carrels along the side for computer users. Some ratty books and magazines, and a flat-screen TV pumping out some daytime TV drivel. I had no idea that I could bring a laptop and get stuff done while I watch the day go by, but after seeing this morning that it was possible, I went home for lunch and brought mine back. Since I'm on a Tri-Met day ticket that I clipped out of my new Chinook Book, the extra loop was free. (The transit mall is a mess already, and the serious ripping (along with lots of bus route changes) doesn't kick in until this Sunday.)
From this vantage point, everything appears to be running smoothly at the courthouse except the security at the front door. The metal detector is kind of a bottleneck, with a line stretching out onto the street. The five minutes or so out there wasn't so bad in today's weather, but if we were talking a downpour, it would have been mighty unpleasant. I'm sure that the lack of a speedy screening system fits right in with the county's plan to build a new courthouse and implode this place. I hope they're planning to do the security right in the new building. The fact that all that probing is needed at all is a sad comment on our world. On a drizzly gray day like this, the quicker the process works, the better.
Anyway, even if my number is called today, do you think I'll actually wind up on a jury? Occupation: law professor. Brother of a career prosecutor, who in turn is married to another career government lawyer. Would any lawyer leave me on the jury panel for an actual case? Seems unlikely.
But hey, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer showed us two years ago this week, when you're called, you go. One of the judges reminded us in our orientation this morning: It's a great country, but you don't get to live here for free.
UPDATE, 6:42 p.m.: Congratulate me -- I think I'm what they call a "venireman." Toward the end of the day, I and 41 others were herded into a courtroom to be "inspected and selected" by the attorneys in a case. (You Arlo Guthrie fans will recognize the quotation. And while discussing medical issues that might prevent them from serving on the trial, a couple of prospective jurors revealed that they had also been "injected"!) Anyway, they kicked a few people out -- not me -- and so it's back down there I go in the morning.
What a great blog entry I could write about the courtroom scene, but I can't discuss the case with anyone -- at least, not tonight.