Friday, July 22, 2016

You're Doing Everything Wrong: Civic Duty Edition

I enjoy being a good citizen. The citizenship award in elementary school was one of my favorite things and I wanted to be the good citizen of the month every month. That's probably not fair since a true good citizen would want to share the award but 3rd graders are selfish. Anyway, as an adult I've strived to do the things I can do to be a good, productive member of society. I was a high school Civics teacher which means I'm a super citizenship nerd. I vote and pay my taxes and I always put my cart back at the grocery. When I was younger I was much more of an activist, participating in protests more and being a more active volunteer. I've come to the realization that I don't love crowds as much as I used to so I tend to support the organizations I love and believe in through donations, background activities, and being an advocate. I enjoy writing strongly worded emails and letters to my congressional representatives and the county officials where I live. I describe this as "quiet activism." We all have to opt for the level of activism that we feel comfortable with in our lives.

One thing has been missing all these years: I've never served jury duty. I know most people would jump at the chance to not serve on jury duty but I am not most people. I received a jury summons once before from the state of Hawaii. However, I had recently moved back to Louisiana so Hawaii didn't want to spend the money to bring me back for jury duty. I guess I understand their reasoning but I was a little disappointed. I was never called in any of the other cities/counties/parishes I've lived in since. No jury duty in Metairie (Jefferson Parish), New Orleans (Orleans Parish), the City of Alexandria, or the City of Alameda. Sad. I've even been a little jealous of my friends and family when they've been called. Why did they get picked and not me? Yes, it's weird. I know that and I'm ok with it.

To say that I was pleasantly surprised when I received my jury summons from Arlington County would be an understatement. I was excited - finally I would be able to complete the good citizenship puzzle I've been working on my whole life. I would see the inside of a courtroom. I would listen intently to the lawyers argue their cases and make a decision based on the evidence presented. I would do my civic duty. Finally, my jury duty week arrived.

And I failed. I failed at jury duty.

This is not to say I did anything wrong; I did nothing wrong. I arrived on time (early because it's me). I dressed appropriately. I brought my jury duty lunch (which was super sad but still I did it). I read The Answer Book for Jury Service cover to cover once I checked in. I vowed to answer all the questions asked of me during the selection process truthfully. I binge watched the tv show Conviction (more on this shortly) because that's what one should do to prepare.

I didn't get picked. I didn't even get the option of being an option for a trial. Here's what happened: we watched a surprisingly well made video featuring the Chief Judge and met with the Clerk of Court, an incredibly polite gentleman who took us through what would happen over the course of the week. Apparently, July is a light month for jury trials in the county. There were only three cases set for the week and they couldn't be sure if the cases would actually go to trial. There was also a second jury pool that would be called for the week so they could take the spots on the actual jury instead of any of us. We were told we would all be going into the court for the one case being heard on the first day but it never happened. Between the clerk briefing us and lunch time, the case was either dismissed or settled without the need of a jury. We were let go for the day and told to check the jury site for our next report date.

I gathered my things and made my way back to work (like a good citizen). I was disappointed and I was the only one in the room that was disappointed. I'm 100% sure of that. I checked the jury site over the next few days and was told not to report. On Wednesday afternoon, I received an email from the jury coordinator:

"Your service is complete."

My jury duty had come to an end without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom. I didn't get to make jury summons room friends or find out if the security guard at the court entrance won her Fitbit fitness challenge for the week (because we Fitbit people always find each other). I fulfilled my service but didn't really do anything. My friends tried to convince me that I had fulfilled my duty and should be okay with what I did accomplish by simply showing up and being a good sport. I think they're wrong.

The one thing I truly accomplished was re-watching the show Conviction, a short-lived addition to the Law & Order universe. The show focused on a group of young Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) headed up by Alexandra Cabot (Stephanie March), before her character fakes her death on SVU, and Jim Steele, played by a favorite actor of mine, Anson Mount. The show only lasted one season which in Law & Order terms is the equivalent of one minute. I was a fan when the show when it originally aired and was disappointed when it wasn't brought back for a second season. I don't really watch procedural dramas anymore; once Lenny Briscoe died (on the show and in real life), I just couldn't do it anymore. But this was for jury duty so I watched. My binge watching brought back the same unanswered questions I had way back in 2006 when the show originally aired:
  • Are all ADAs incredibly attractive? Is there a section of the bar that rates attractiveness and somehow that impacts a lawyer's employability? Exhibit A:

  • Did Jim Steele ever figure out which lady he really loved? Was it Bureau Chief Cabot, poised to marry another man and a few years away from faking her death on SVU? Or was it Jessica, ADA with amazing cheekbones and a super sassy attitude? How would this have impacted the larger Law & Order universe had it actually been resolved? Steele and Jessica would have had impossibly attractive children. 
  • Does Erik Balfour ever look trustworthy? I can't recall any movie or tv show I've seen him on where he didn't look sweaty, shady, and like he has a secret family somewhere. Exhibit B:
  • Would my jury service end in a hostage situation as the two part series finale ended? Would I be one of the people forced to stand in a window because the guy holding court hostage thought that meant the SWAT team wouldn't shoot? For the record: they always shoot.
  • Why did the priest in the episode about the kid who stole money from the church poor box have an Irish accent in some scenes but not others? Did they think no one would notice?
  • Did Finn and Peluso make it? There were an inordinate number of couples on this show who all worked together. Did none of them realize that dating at work is a poor, poor life choice? 
  • Did rich boy turned ADA Nick Potter stay with the job or go back to being an insufferable rich person like everyone else in his family? I like to think he stayed.
I'll continue contemplating these questions while I wait for my next jury summons. I can be called again in the next three years or sooner if needed. Or it could be another 15 years before I'm called again (the time between my Hawaii summons and Virginia summons). Or never. I guess I can live with that.

Next week: It's Sharknado Week on the Island of Misfit Toys! During the week I'll repost my previous blogs on the first three Sharknado movies in anticipation of the premiere of Sharknado 4 on July 31st. I'll fulfill my other civic duty by watching the fourth movie so you don't have to. Check it out next week on the Island!

Conviction cover
Conviction cast photo
Erik Balfour

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