aqua fortis

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Free Rice, No Free Time

On our YA writing blog, TadMack posted about a great site called FreeRice, where you're quizzed on vocabulary words, and for every word you get right, 10 grains of rice are donated to the U.N. World Food Program. It's addictive, believe me.

Not that I needed something else to suck up my time. I already had to kiss half of yesterday goodbye thanks to the World's Suckiest Jury Summons. Yes, the good ol' jury summons. Only this was no ordinary summons. This was a summons to the United States District Court, Eastern District of California. Which is in Fresno. Which is 90 miles away. Let me list the suck-tastic aspects of this civic duty in all their glory:

  • Did I mention it's in Fresno, and 90 miles away?
  • I had to report to the jury room at 8 a.m. yesterday morning. When I left the house, it was still dark. I resent that greatly.
  • When you get summoned to the district court, you are evidently on call for 30 days, unless you get appointed to a trial. So if you report in but aren't picked, you don't just get excused for the year.
  • I was not picked, therefore I'm still on call. And this was supposed to be one of their shortest cases ever, at a mere four days in length.

So, yeah. The only good thing is you get $45 bucks a day plus mileage, even if you show up and aren't picked to be on a jury. (Sadly, that's probably more than I make on an average day.) Anyway, I show up around eight with my bag full of stuff to do, reading material, lunch, etc. Turns out I barely cracked a book, because once the lady welcomed the group of about 35 rather disgruntled people to the jury room, we were shown a movie about the jury selection procedure which lasted about 10 minutes. Then, after a break, everyone was ushered to the courtroom so they could interview potential jurors--the voir dire (see, I learned something from the filmstrip. Yay.).

This case was not going to be interesting. I won't lie. An insurance company, which had paid out several tens of thousands of dollars to an insured party after a house fire, was in turn suing an electronics company to recoup the money, alleging the fire was due to a faulty electronic device attached to the swimming pool (the heater? I can't remember. It was too boring). The attorney for the defense even asked jurors (not in so many words, but pretty nearly) whether they could watch four days of testimony on the subject without getting completely bored out of their skulls.

Anyway, the judge called up about 20 people to the jury box. I was not among them. He proceeded to give a summary of the case and ask a whole array of questions to determine whether people might be excused from serving due to various issues, conflict of interest, etc. It was sort of interesting to watch a few people try to weasel out of jury duty. For instance, one guy said, "Uh, I can't be around people. They give me anxiety." The judge was not buying this, so he told the guy he could have a week's deferment but to be excused he would need to provide a doctor's note. Then there was the woman who claimed that due to blood clots in her legs she couldn't sit for more than an hour at a time.

Unfortunately, I couldn't read during this part either--I felt compelled to pay attention because the judge said if he needed to call up any replacement jurors to the jury box, he would ask them if they would have answered yes to any of the questions already asked of all the other jurors. And there were assloads of questions. In the end, though, only eight jurors were required, so everyone else was sent home and instructed to call the hotline on Wednesday. ARGH.


DaviMack said...

Ahh, the glories of being an Ex-Pat.

There is one helpful thing, though: if you're ever on a jury which doesn't reach a verdict (i.e. a 'hung' jury) then you'll never have to serve again, ever. They don't want someone with the strength of will it takes to stick to their opinion, you see. :) There's always that hope - and if it's a stupid case... well, once you're there, though, you may find that you rather like thinking about these things.

Did the judge ask people whether they understood that, "this isn't CSI, and we don't order DNA tests for everything; there aren't science wizards going over every hair in the room, etc."

Anonymous said...

In all my years as a registered voter, I've never been gotten jury summons. Wait. Apparently, when I was in Japan, I got summoned, but Jen sent it back in saying I was out of the country. I wonder if this means I'm going to pay for this all at one once by having to be on some sequestered OJ-esque trial that lasts for months. I would do something to get myself kicked off before I would let that happen. - Beth

Neil Struthers said...


You could always have said you were prejudiced against all electronics.

Apparently that works in other cases too. (Swap 'electronics' for 'outlanders', and you're away. Outlander can mean whatever you want it to mean. It's fantastic.) It helps to have a few secret hate-blogs on hand to offer as proof. "See? I've been suspicious of all electronics since July 2003", and so on.

a. fortis said...

I was thinking that if I got called up there I'd tell them (truthfully) that my dad is a retired electronics engineer, but it probably wouldn't have worked...even the one electrician up there didn't get excused!!

chloe said...

I spent WAY too much time on that Free Rice site yesterday. But it was for charity, right! And we are in the middle of the annual giving campaign at work, so it could technically be considered work, right? ;)

Mary Witzl said...

It could have been worse! It could have been in Bakersfield.

Mary Witzl said...

Thank you very much for that Free Rice site! Now I can procrastinate in a useful and proactive way. And I will beat the sh*t out of anyone in Scrabble, folks, because I now know what a zax is.

Shaping Youth said...

I cracked up at your jury call description...Not to mention the commentary about 'better Fresno than Bakersfield' bit, as one of my friends used to say it's "where lizards go to die"...

As for Free Rice, I featured it extensively on our Shaping Youth blog, along w/my daughter's ethical conundrum of finding a way to 'cheat the system to give more' ahem...Anyway, here's the post, if you're interested. And yes, it IS addicting!