At 9 am on the first Monday of this year, my 20-year-old daughter broke with her regular, sleep-late vacation schedule and reported to the Kings County Courthouse for her first taste of jury duty.
When she told people she had to serve they all said they were sorry, couldn’t she defer (she already had once), what a shame she had to give up her vacation for this, and offered hints about how to avoid being selected.
Me? I cheered and told her she was doing the second-most-important thing, after voting, she can do to serve our country. I’m not sure who she believed.
In case anyone hasn’t experienced jury duty, my girl’s adventure was pretty typical. Her first day was spent sitting in a large room with a lot of people, reading, texting, and generally fighting off the pervasive boredom that comes with sitting on your butt for a whole bunch of hours. She was released for a lunch break and then was back, sitting some more.
On her second day, she was called in for a possible jury assignment to a civil case, related to a car accident. She was asked questions, made to wait some more, asked more questions and then told to come back the next morning.
She ended up on the jury and when the case didn’t settle, she and her companions in the courtroom heard testimony, deliberated, and evaluated the responsibility of the defendant in the accident.
It moved slowly. There were long periods of waiting around. More than once she wanted to be doing something else, perhaps anything else, then spending another minute in that courthouse. Each morning, though, she dutifully got up and made it over there on time, complaining about the sleep she was giving up as I handed her some coffee on her way out the door.
There are so few ways for my kid to really participate in the workings of our country and here was one. Amidst the many negative messages about how America is an awful, broken place, I’m glad she had a chance to be part of its functioning. Yes, there was too much waiting around, and the seats are uncomfortable and the schedule inconsistent making the experience less than perfect, but in order to work, the courts need people like my girl.
The old fashioned notion of civic responsibility doesn’t get talked about much anymore but I want my daughter to be a good citizen. Now that she is a young woman, she should vote, serve on juries, pay taxes, volunteer in our community and generally participate in her neighborhood, city, state, and country.
I know she heard the many voices saying jury duty should be avoided and is a waste of time. It’s easy to complain about it, and everything else. It’s a lot harder to actually show up.
My daughter did and she served responsibly and thoughtfully. I’m so proud of her.