Got my summons for jury duty. Starting Friday and continuing for a week, I am on standby. I can’t go anywhere or do anything that will make me unavailable for court.
At 5 p.m. Friday, and every day hereafter until April 27, I have to call and give my juror number. A recording will tell me whether I need to head to the courthouse, or call back the next day.
The summons cautioned that I should expect to wait. It even included tips on how to make waiting for jury service more endurable.
For example, “Consider bringing a book or magazine to pass the time.”
This made me a little uneasy. When it comes to time, there are books and then there are books. Were we talking an illustrated graphic novel or “War and Peace”?
Given all the glass windows in the Matheson Courthouse, I was going to bring a Nerf gun and suction-cup darts to pass the time. However, the list of what not to bring is quite detailed.
No kids, pets, deranged elderly relatives, guns, knives, scissors, halter tops, outside food or drink, miniskirts, archery equipment, shorts, pornography or T-shirts.
That last item was a bit disappointing. In preparation for this very thing, I had already ordered a black T-shirt with the words “Slammer Time, B*tch!” on the front. Guess I’ll have to see if I can get my money back for that.
I laughed when I got to the part that said my employer cannot threaten my job because I report for jury service. Really? The Salt Lake Tribune may be the only business to ever send the court a fruit basket just for keeping a troublesome employee away from the office.
As you might expect, the most motivating part of the summons for me was the completely undisguised threat at the bottom:
“If you do not appear for jury duty as instructed, you may be in contempt of court and can be fined up to $1,000, sent to jail for up to 30 days and/or hanged by the neck until dead (Utah Code Section 78B-1-115(H).”
I added that last part into the quote just because I didn’t think it quite conveyed the court’s attitude about the seriousness of jury duty.
Jury duty is serious. It’s the foundation of the U.S. justice system — that we are judged not just by some crazy king or ruthless dictator.
It wasn’t long ago — well, actually it was if you’re a clock watcher — that justice was meted out arbitrarily. Depending on the mood of the person handing out justice, people could be sentenced to hang for killing the wrong deer or ordered trampled to death by rabbits for gazing too long upon some princess.
During the Dark Ages, a magistrate could order a person clapped into a set of stocks until a wandering plague killed him, he died of old age, or his 22nd birthday. The law — and life expectancy — was decidedly capricious back then.
Today, thanks to the fact that we live in a free country, we get tried by a jury of our peers. Yup, people just like us. If that doesn’t scare you into behaving yourself, you deserve whatever you get.