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What I'd like Judge Michael Andrews to know...

Multi-tasking is a way of life for most Americans. 

On Monday I was scheduled for jury duty.  I went through the jury selection process on Monday with the possibility of serving on a murder case but ultimately was not selected.  Pasco County has taken great effort to make the whole experience as comfortable as possible -- providing free coffee, lots of books and magazines to read, and TV shows on several big screens.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Animal Planet on the TV as I took my seat.  As we began the morning, Judge Michael Andrews (Circuit Court Judge, Sixth Judicial Circuit, Pinellas & Pasco Counties) came and talked to us and gave an overview of the process and fielded questions and answers.  He encouraged us to share what we thought about the process, and noted that many changes including the coffee, books and other things provided were a result of feedback from previous jurors.  I thought that was great. So here goes.

Judge Andrews said he figured that it was inconvenient to be there, that there is probably no easy time to be serving on a jury. He said he recognized that coming for jury duty was taking us away from our responsibilities, our homes, families and workplaces.  I appreciated his attitude of understanding and the humorous way that he got his point across.

There was only one thing he said that took issue with. He inferred that none of us had jobs where the responsibilities couldn't be delegated or deferred.  He said that a lot of people try to get themselves excused from jury duty by saying, "I'm the only one who does my job."  In response he said, "Well, if any of you died tomorrow somebody else would be on your job the next day!   This would even be the case with me.  If I died tomorrow somebody else would be ready to take my place on the bench.  None of us are irreplaceable."  

What does this have to do with jury duty?  He was comparing serving on a jury to what would happen if we were dead.  While it is correct that someone else would replace all of us if we were to die, myself included, the fact is, we have not died, and we have not been replaced!  And, until we have died and have been replaced,the work remains.

I say none of this as a complaint, rather as a statement of truth. When I got the summons for jury duty I knew what it would mean.  If selected, it would require me to stay up very late every night, possibly until 3 or 4 in the morning, in order to keep up with all of my other work and get it done while doing jury duty at the same time. Simply putting my work aside for a week and tabling it until the  next is not an option.  I fully expected sleepy mornings and going into the Pasco County courthouse needing plenty of coffee to keep my eyes pried open during the trial.  

Some people say, "well what if you get sick?"  That happens occasionally.  Last time I had the flu I used clorox wipes on my computer and kept working, right from my laptop in bed.  The reason I did this is because the previous time I was sick and placed my work aside for a day or two it meant working almost around the clock once I was better, in order to have everything ready in time for the weekend.   That's enough to practically throw you into another sickness!  Can I have someone else lead worship or teach for the week?  Of course.  But that is only a small fraction of what I have to do.  

How do I ever take a vacation?  I work double time the week before leaving in order to be able to leave.  This is the case with most every colleague I know who serves in my vocation, so I know I am not alone.  Again, I am not complaining, simply stating the reality of my schedule and many other people's.   Let's say I was going to work 40 hours that order to take vacation the next week I usually have to work 80 hours the week before to do the week's worth of work that I am missing in advance.   (Truth be told it's sometimes why I don't look forward to vacation, knowing the double work it will take to just get there.)

Exhausted jurors are the reality, since we are not dead and most have jobs.   Americans work more hours than they have ever worked and the majority take work home.  A great number of people I was with in the jury pool were working from their I-phones and Blackberries during all the breaks.  I sat next to a CPA who returned calls during all of our breaks to her office.  The attorneys asked a lot of questions during the selection process about whether people would be mentally sidetracked or unable to give their full attention to the case.  Who has the luxury of giving their absolute full attention to nothing but a court case for days unless that is your full time job? Of course I would have been thinking of the work I had to go home to every night.  Although I wasn't selected Monday, that's exactly what I did when I got home -- started working to get done everything I missed while at the courthouse.

I  am surprised a judge who lives in the real world didn't understand that some people wouldn't really be "taking off work" to be at jury duty but just doing both at once, or as in my case doing even more than one job, simultaneously.  Multi-tasking is a reality of life that even a murder trial doesn't change.   

Jury duty is a hardship for many, although I recognize it as a worthy, honorable and entirely necessary one.  It IS as important or even more important than voting in our country - it is critical to our democracy and our freedom.  I know and believe all this, and will always show up for jury duty when summoned, and work double or triple time for however long needed to serve on a case if selected and not try to get excused.  And, at the same time I wish that people like Judge Andrews realized that people's responsibilities are not easily dismissed or tabled because we are alive and we are hard working Americans who deliver what is expected regardless of what's going on.  Jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and...don't poo-poo the magnitude of people's work.  It's not cool.


Anonymous said…
...and if you were dead, you'd be in heaven, where there is no jury duty!

I understand what he's saying [and I'm sure he's heard every excuse in the book!], but I don't really think DEATH is the standard that we use to measure how busy we are or are not.
Yes, you totally get this. I knew you would. :)
Anonymous said…
Okay, so I just served jury duty this past summer - in a completely different state.
After reading this post, and thinking "what an understanding judge I had!" I have figured something out.
They all read from the same script. It's funny reading your account - because that's EXACTLY what the judge said to us!
I didn't mind it. Honestly, I complained when I got the letter in the mail - but in the end, I learned a little and was thankful that my schedule was actually more flexible than most, despite feeling like it was going to be a huge inconvenience to me and my family.

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