Civic duty done did.
I’ve been calling since last Friday to see if my jury group would have to report. Fate (luck or bad fortune?) had me show up the morning to the San Francisco courthouse at 400 McAllister. After a few work emails on the free WiFis (which I always pronounce in my head the French way – weefees) and an orientation video, my name was called in the first group.
Up three floors to courtroom 306, I assumed one of the 56 empty seats and awaited my destiny. I have never served on a jury and I really appreciated the warmth and demeanor of the judge as she explained how the day would go down. The trial would be a short one and civic, lasting about a week.
Now, you either assume I didn’t get on the jury, or you wonder why I’m discussing matters of a trial out of the court. Don’t worry, I’m not in contempt of court. I made it into “the box.” But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The judge was tough on anyone who claimed a personal hardship in the kindest of manners. I wasn’t one of the first 22 picked, so I watched as they potential jurors were screened in voir dire. Two people were excused due to language limitations, but not without a thorough grilling by the judge who inquired about their time here, any schooling, and their language of employment.
By lunch break, counsel had picked down 24 to 12 and they had their jury. It’s a civic case between a landlord plaintiff his served an unlawful detainer on a subleasee. Before we left, the court clerk called 12 more people to be the next pool for the two alternate spots. I was assigned seat 16.
For lunch, I enjoyed dal and neatloaf from White People in Saris, or Ananda Fuara Vegetarian. Hadn’t been there in a long time. Back in the courtroom, I wondered what my chances were to be called. They seemed pretty high, assuming the counsel could each excuse a potential, specifically seats 13 and 14. If I didn’t want to get called, I’d have to find a way to seem undesirable. I hoped the plantiff’s lawyer would ask if anyone had been involved in an eviction or unlawful detainer. ’cause I was once, and it was settled without going to trail, because our crazy landlady (or her lawyer) realized that she didn’t have grounds for a case. We continued to live there until the end of that lease. Oh, 1463 Valencia and crazy Helen Tan.
But, unlike the morning’s questioning, they never asked the same question.
After a brief introduction and having nothing to report that would prevent me from applying the letter of the law as ordered by the judge, counsel stipulated, aka agreed, and handpicked me and the guy next to me to be alternated. Us white guys can never catch a break.
Sworn in, the judge gave us further instruction on what is and isn’t evidence. I sat through opening remarks by the plantiff and the defense chose not to make their opening remarks. Because counsel and the judge thought jury selection would last all day, they did not have any witnesses called to report. That would start tomorrow, so we were dismissed for the day.
Faced with the choice of returning to the office or having a late-afternoon coffee, I admit Blue Bottle won. The idea of getting to work as people were ending their day sounded like a recipe for staying late to “make up” the missed time. I deserved the cappuccino, the overdue phone call with Tina (yes, that Tina) and time reading in the fading sun. Work will always be waiting.
As I sat in the little park in Hayes Valley on Octavia, I got a call from the court clerk. They had decided to do a trial without a jury. My service was concluded. No need to report tomorrow or next week. Civic duty, we barely just met!
The whole ordeal wasn’t as bad as I feared. Granted, there would have been lots of work stress and drama to miss that much time at this important point in launching a new website, but the change of scenery would have been a welcome change of pace, albeit bad on the deadlines. The judge was a hoot, and I really appreciate how great she was at conveying the meaning of each step of the process. Funny, too! I would have liked to have been part of resolving the dispute. But there’s no longer a means for me to contribute. Next time?
Alas, it’s back to the grindstone for me tomorrow. Our new site is almost ready to launch and I pray (against all odds) that we can still make Monday. So I won’t have my little real-life Law & Order experience. It was quite a cast of characters, our diverse crew of San Franciscans.
In the long run, it’s for the best. Work doesn’t pay for jury service and $15/day doesn’t amount to much. And there’s plenty to be done right now. Besides, why spend a day away from the office without the ability to knit?
Jury duty overruled!