DINO DINCO : I SURVIVED THREE WEEKS OF JURY DUTY

But at a price.

When I was surprisingly chosen to serve jury duty on a civil trial, it was estimated that we’d be finishing in 6 – 8 days. Well, that crawled at a snail’s pace into three full (fool) weeks. And during said three weeks, I lost three jobs, two of them with new clients. Furthermore, the trial on which I was serving jury duty was just a sad example of white collar crime and “who can grift more money out of one another” under the guise of “justice.” Snoresville. The scenario, in brief: A lawfirm courts a new partner who has a lot of business. Everyone is all real excited. But, their relationship quickly sours and the new lawyer jumps ship. Feelings are hurt and things get nasty. Agreements had been signed but were the RIGHT agreements signed? The law firm hires a single security guard to peacefully watch over a certain change of office — later, in court, the defense will refer to this single, presumably Latino security guard as “a group of gang members.” Part of the lawfirm’s freak-out includes suing the newly-gone attorney for breach of this and loss of that. Naturally, the newly-gone lawyer countersues for loss of income, damages, etc. in threefold. Much like it was scripted, tears are shed on the stand during testimony. The attorneys representing the attorneys (yeah, ya follow?) engage in that often professional, occasionally snide banter where they try to discredit everything but their own client (and paycheck). There is actual courtroom testimony debating who was responsible for paying for certain monogrammed dinner mints. The whole thing was pretty ridiculous and all told, this exercise in theatrics must have cost around $ 150,000 including fees for all the forensic anaylsts that were hired, loss of work for upwards of 10 attorneys, and the reams upon reams of documents that needed to be copied. (Note to all: emails and handwritten notes, even sarcastic ones with big puffy hearts on them, can and WILL show up in a court of law on an overhead projector for all to see — and you might have to explain “Do you always sign your notes with a big, puffy heart?”) Meanwhile, each jury member is paid $ 15 a day, starting NOT on the first day you have to appear for jury selection, but starting on day 2. Many of the jury members were either self-employed (and hence, don’t get paid for serving on a jury) OR their employers don’t pay for serving jury time. One young guy had to use all of his vacation, sick and personal days merely to serve on this jury, which seemed particularly unfair to me. While I appreciate the fact that a hand selected jury is part of our court system, I only hope that some reform will happen in terms of who can and should serve. It seems to work against the system to have jurors that grow increasingly pissed off having to be there in the first place, especially when if it’s difficult to find sympathy for either side involved. Maybe if the “losers” in each trial were forced to pay each juror a fair day rate, there would be more arbitration outside of court. I undertand better now why people throw their Jury Summons letters in the trash the minute they arrive in the mail.

I did find it funny that of the 12 jurors chosen for this particular jury, (out of 50 or so potential jurors), that at least 3 of the 12 were gay men — one who had hit on me at a bar years ago. Small world. (There may have been more actually, now that I think about it.) So, does that suggest that the 1 in 10 ratio that the “‘mos” have relied upon for years is actually much higher? Is the ratio closer to 1 in 4? Or only in select queer-friendly arenas like….Superior Court? Is that why, as a juror, you not only get free parking at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, but you also get free admission to MOCA — the Museum of Contemporary Art?

This was one of the few highlights for me — a buzzer on the wall within the Jury Deliberation Chamber, where we 12 jurors passionately duked it out for a solid day and half, after the lawyers droned on non-stop for 2 1/2 weeks.

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She was another highlight. I saw her while leaving court for lunch one day, rocking some mean courthouse style, including a curly donut ring of much lighter hair around her head. My jury buddy and I have reason to believe that there was no one on the other end of that phone line.

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