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Jury Duty is Poopy

I was summoned for jury duty for the first time ever last week.  I actually always thought it would be an interesting process, but now I know why everyone whines.  I had to wake up too dang early, it was boring, and I wasn’t even needed (happy about that one though).

My Day

It’s been a while since I had to commute anywhere with the morning traffic, so the hour it took to get from my home to downtown Houston sucked hard.  But I arrived, parked in the correct garage, found the Jury Plaza rooms, and settled in by 7:50am.

Other than handing in my summons, reading the obvious rules in about a minute, and watching an obvious 5 minute video about serving, we were pretty much left to our own from 8am to 9:30am.  From 9:30am on, the clerk would come in occasionally and type in a range of numbers to display on the video screens.  If your number fell within that range, you would follow the appropriate bailiff to court.

My number was included at about 10am.  We met in a group with the bailiff, acknowledged our names, and followed him across the street to Court Room 9.  Then we just stood in the hall for 30 minutes.  At about 11am, it was announced that the case was settled and we could all go home.  Yay!

I understand that jury duty is a necessary evil and one of my civic duties, but next time I will prepare way better.

What to Bring

I saw people way smarter than me.  Here is what I will bring next time:

  • Bottle of water – I was so thirsty and their snack bar was expensive.  I kept visiting the water fountain.
  • Snacks – I brought a couple of packages of trail mix, but I wish I had packed a sandwich.
  • A jacket – The room was cold and I was in short sleeves…yuck.
  • A great book – I got really, really bored once my laptop died.
  • Paperwork – If I had brought some of the stuff I had been putting off at home, I would have had it all wrapped up by now.
  • My laptop – I would bring it again but make sure to only use it to write up posts like this so I do not run its battery out as quickly.

The Money Aspect

And since this is a personal finance blog, does anyone else think it is severely odd that you are only paid $6 for the first day of jury service?  At least, that is what they pay here.  That means they pretty much will pay me $6 to reimburse the $6 I paid for parking for the day.  The toll roads and gas aren’t covered, so I just think the random $6 is odd.  I mean, yay for having parking reimbursed (not complaining), but odd none-the-less.

And if I was selected for a jury, I would be bringing in $28 a day for that.  Where they get that number, I have no idea.  Overall, anyone looking for a career in jury service would be severely disappointed, lol.

Have you been summoned yet?  What have I forgotten?

FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 per year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $70,000-$90,000 through blogging, professional pet sitting, hubby's reffing, and our rental home.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you, PLUS a free custom header banner from me!).  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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20 thoughts on “Jury Duty is Poopy

  1. I did jury duty once and made it all the way inside the court room for the jury selection and didn’t make it. I was relieved since I was there for 3 days.

    You’re lucky they paid you $6. Here in Canada if I remember correctly because this was a few years ago, they start paying you if you are there for more than 1 week. My company still paid me for the 3 days which was great, but if I was self employed and didn’t get paid for those days I would not be happy.

    They tried to summon me again a few months after, I immediately wrote them back explaining that I was recently summoned. Thankfully I didn’t have to go for the second time.

    You definitely want to bring something to do at jury duty, or you’ll be bored out of your mind.

  2. I’ve always been interested in doing jury duty. It seems like a cool way to be a part of the judicial process. But I have heard many of your same complaints, as well as some I would never have thought about. My MIL was once called for a murder case (which this mystery fan would have assumed was really interesting). But MIL found that it was pretty horrifying learning about the details of such a case, and she ended up having nightmares about it for quite some time afterwards.

    That being said, I’m glad to read your list of things to bring. I’ll remember that if I ever get called up. I’ll also try to keep a little emotional distance if I ever have an experience like my MIL’s.

  3. Jury duty is sooooo something that I’d love to do, but for the reasons you mention (pay & time) it’s really not worth it. I always defer for school purposes.

    I’ve read before that apparently it’s almost impossible now to find a jury given that there are a lot of people who really cannot afford to trade whatever amount of time for $20 or so per day. I really think the jury pay should be higher – this seems like this is something where paying for thoughtful people is important.

  4. The particulars of jury duty vary depending on where you live. I live in Chicago which is in Cook County, IL. Here we have what is called the “one day, one trial” system, which means if you’re not selected to sit on a jury you only have to report one day. My boss lives in LA and there jury duty is a full week long at minimum, even if you’re not sitting on a trial. (!!)

    I’ve been called for jury duty about 5 times in the past 20 years. I served on one civil trial, and it was quite eye-opening for me. I found that sitting on a jury was not for me! I am an inquisitive person and found it frustrating that I couldn’t ask my own questions when the evidence wasn’t clear enough for me or seemed (perhaps intentionally) scanty.

    A few years ago I was summoned for jury duty to the criminal court. I was selected for the voir dire (the part where they ask you questions to see if they want you on a jury) for a first degree murder trial. I told the judge about my experience with the civil trial: that if I wasn’t given an opportunity to ask questions, I’d have trouble making a decision. I was dismissed.

    Pay here in Cook County is $17.60 a day whether you’re on a trail or not. If you have to report to civil court in the downtown area, that won’t cover parking for the day, although it will cover public transit costs. Most employers will pay you for the day so you don’t lose money unless you’re self-employed.

    I pretty much always carry the items you mentioned in my purse (reading material, a snack, water, and some knitting are standard), and I’d say that’s a good list for any place where you’ll have an extended wait.

  5. I’ve yet to have jury duty, but the idea of it does interest me. I’d definitely want to bring along snacks, a lunch and a good book or two. Maybe even my knitting!

  6. You’re right, it is absolutely a part of your civic duty, and when people like you do it, you skew the trial to an actual jury of their peers, and I believe that is important. If I had to go to trial, I’d want someone like you listening to both sides of an argument and judging fairly, since my peers are not retired people and homeless people.

  7. I was summoned once in Oregon, while I was at college in Massachusetts. My mom just called for me and explained I wouldn’t be able to make it and that was it.

    I wonder if the paid is different in different states and if you are summoned for a federal case versus a state case?

  8. C is always getting called for jury duty. In fact, July is his month of jury duty. He’s got a summons for 2 weeks in county court early in the month, then at the end of the month, he’s got a summons for federal court. He served on a federal jury a few years ago and found it interesting.
    We do have a process here where you can call in the night before/morning of to see if you need to come in that day. However, with Federal Court, because of how long it takes cases to get to judges, you can be pretty certain that they will need most of the people called.

    We also have a process by which you can go online and change the dates of your service if the dates they sent you don’t work for you. When C served a few years ago, one woman tried to get out of jury duty by saying she was scheduled to go on vacation in 2 days (trial was expected to last 3). Judge refused to dismiss her because she could have gone in and changed the dates of her jury duty. Federal judges do not mess around.

  9. You are so lucky that you are allowed to bring those things in with you. Here in Delaware, we are allowed to bring ourselves, money for the vending machines and a book. That? Is it. No phones, no laptops, no anything that is remotely entertaining. On some level I understand it since Family and Superior Court are housed in the same building but on other level…really?

    Oh, and when I was summoned? I did not get paid. Jurors are only paid for any day AFTER the first day. We did get free parking though and we were dismissed by 12:30 due to plea bargains. So that was nice. I went and saw The Hunger Games afterwards. So I guess it was a pretty decent experience.

  10. I have been summoned before and only “almost” served once. I was selected but dismissed. It was a dog bite case. I think I was dismissed because I was an accountant. I heard the defense does not like accountants or engineers on civil suits because we reduce an award. Now I usually schedule all jury duty during Christmas vacation and so far not served.

  11. I’ve only been called about 3 times for county criminal court duty in the 21 years I’ve lived in my county. The first 2 times it was, go to court, sit around, go to the bathroom, sit some more, then be told to pick up your $6 check and go home. This last time I made it in to voir dire but was on the back row. The attorneys said from the start they would be concentrating on the first few rows, and it was a good thing because it was a child molestation case. It was interesting to see how that piece of the process worked, but fortunately I was not selected.

    Our county mails out notices, then you can go online to fill out the questionaire and reschedule if you need to. Like another commenter, we call the night before to see if we are needed.

    $6 is an odd amount for the first day. We have an option to donate it to one of several charities listed on the form, so that’s what I do.

    It’s an uncomfortable and inconvenient thing to deal with, but I much prefer it to the alternative.

  12. So sorry you had a poopy experience.

    I think serving on a jury is our civic duty — we are guaranteed the right to be tried by a jury of our peers. Whenever anyone opts out, it reduces the pool.

    If I ever found myself on either side of a court battle that went to a jury trial, I would be hoping to have jurors who were as intelligent and insightful as you and your readers.

  13. @Call Me, wow, a whole week with no pay at all? That does suck – especially since I am self employed, so I would not just be there for free, but it would cost me 1/4 of my monthly income!

    @Emily Guy Birken, I have a tough stomach and have seen some pretty awful injuries close up and personal, so I think I would find a criminal trial interesting more than anything else, but yes, some of those cases are not for just anybody!

    @Michelle, I would never skip out on jury duty and would only reschedule if necessary, but if I started getting summoned multiple times a year, I would check that exemption box…that’s insane.

    @JT, I think pay wouldn’t matter as much if all employers were required to pay for jury duty days…then only the self employed would be screwed, lol. I personally wouldn’t mind jury duty at all if it wasn’t a complete waste of time 99% of the times I have known someone to be summoned. I wish we had the call-a-day-earlier system like some of the other commenters!

    @Lance, I actually wrote 75% of this post (couldn’t write the results since I didn’t know if I’d be called in) and a guest post for another site. 🙂

    @Linda, I will never live in LA… I usually carry most of the items I mentioned except for a water bottle and a jacket. I barely ever even need to own a jacket, lol.

    @Sheryl, you’ll be well prepared. 🙂

    @Kathleen, no worries, I will always show up. I just wish we’d only have to drive in if we were truly going to be used…

    @Jenna, yep, the pay is determined by county I think…

    @Shanendoah, my last employer would have paid for 3 days. Self employment does have a few cons. And I really wish we could call the day in advance and see if we are needed here!

    @Jana, weird. We had to take everything we brought through a metal detector, but that’s it. The Hunger Games was surprisingly great! I liked the books a lot, but I liked the movie way more than expected!

    @Krantcents, I wonder what lawyers think about bloggers…

    @Kris, just be prepared for the next time. Congrats on the cancellation though. 😉

    @Cari, I highly value being judged by a group of people, so I agree that it is better than the alternative. 🙂

    @Dianna, you would only want us on your jury if you were innocent, right? 😉

  14. Random story. My dad has been picked for every jury duty he has been called on within the last 10 years, including a 2 year once a month stint on federal jury duty. He is now exempt for a certain amount of years. Funny thing, he has found almost all of them guilty, lol!

  15. In NZ you get reimbursed for travel costs, and a very small amount (something like $20 a day?)

    I was called up last year and very nearly put on a four-week fraud trial. Unfortunately I was about to start a new job and had to ask the judge to be let off. Who can take four weeks off work, basically unpaid, to sit on a jury?

    I wouldn’t mind being on a jury, but not for that amount of time. I was initially quite excited, but it’s a very dull process – a lot of sitting around, then going upstairs to the courtroom, more sitting around, then either being called up, or being sent back down to the waiting room, and then the whole process begins again…

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