Three years ago, I posted about receiving my first ever jury duty summons and the poopy experience of sitting around for hours, just waiting, then being chosen, then waiting some more in a hallway, and then being released since the case was settled out of court. It was an unfulfilling 5 hour process.
Well, I was summoned again for yesterday. This time I didn’t have a ton of jobs and emails waiting for me, so I went in with a happier disposition.
Sadly, it was even less fulfilling than before. Same process but I didn’t even make it past the first room this time. Just woke up at 6am, got dressed in business casual and ate breakfast as requested, did the hour commute into downtown Houston, got scanned and whatnot to get in, waited in the exact same seat for 3 hours, and was released since they had everyone they needed with the first two rounds of people they pulled out. Oh well. At least the $6 check they are sending me will cover the exactly $6 I paid for parking again…
In case you have never been summoned, here is the general process (at least for Harris County, Texas).
- Receive summons.
- Send back form if you aren’t eligible for jury service (they have a list for you).
- Send back form if you can and want to claim an exemption (they have another list for you).
- Reschedule for another time in the next 6 months if you just need to delay it. But the rescheduled day will be the same day of the week and at the same time as your original summons. You can do this twice in 6 months. I haven’t rescheduled either time since I’ve been in town.
- Fill out the bottom of the form in advance to save time before you go.
- Pack correctly for the day (see list below).
- Leave early enough that you can still make it if there’s an accident in front of you. Happened to me BOTH times now…luckily, I left for a normal 30-40 minute drive about 1 hour and 15 minutes in advance because I know driving during the morning commute just sucks.
- Park, find the assigned room for your juror number, and find the seat that looks the best to you. You’ll be there for at least an hour if not 3-4 hours before you are selected or released.
- Watch for announcements and pay attention to the juror numbers they are pulling so you don’t miss it if you are called.
- If you get on a panel, then go through voir dire to see if both lawyers let you through to the jury itself.
- If you get on a jury, follow the judge’s instructions as perfectly as possible. The average trial here is less than 3 days but can last for weeks or even months if it’s one of the big ones. 1-2 day civil suits and criminal trials are the most prevalent here though. You sometimes can get selected, hear the case, and make a decision all in the same day.
- If you aren’t needed, they “release” you and you are put back in the general random lottery for summons again. I got summoned in June 2012 and again yesterday so far. Lots of people in Harris County.
Things to Bring if You Are Allowed
Every court is different, but here is what we are allowed to bring that makes the waiting nicer (check the paperwork that comes with your own summons):
- Your summons
- Your cell phone
- Laptop (they even have free WiFi now – unsecured but nice)
- Remember to charge your phone and laptop as much as possible since plugs are few and far between.
- Book (not crafts – safety scissors and knitting needles are confiscated at the metal detectors. Found out from a school teacher next to me that couldn’t cut out some sort of project like she wanted)
- Jacket since it can get cold inside
- Snacks, a sandwich, and a bottled beverage. Or use the $1.50-$2 vending machines or slightly overpriced café. I brought a peanut butter and jam sandwich, a few chewy granola bars, and some gum. Forgot my bottled water on my kitchen counter, so I bought a $1.50 bottle of root beer.
My Personal Gripe
Overall, I am 100% behind the idea of jury duty and taking part in our civil rights. BUT, I think the system could be a billion times better with not a huge amount of extra work.
They could have online check-ins from home like airports that are require confirmation within 72 hours before your service date, have built-in 25% padding for no shows, and then less than a quarter of the people commuting to the courts would have wasted their time. But that’s just me wanting efficiency.
I do appreciate the people I interacted with today since they were helpful, kind, and patient (even with some pretty stupid questions being thrown at them all day). And I don’t mind being summoned to be on a jury of someone’s peers. I just cannot stand the fact that this is the second half day of my life that was just wasted for no real reason.
How have your jury duty experiences worked out?