Getting Out of Jury Duty

Food for Thought

I’ve come to fear any piece of mail that looks like a jury duty summon. If you are self-employed, you are royally screwed; you have to lose thousands of dollars of your own money to “serve” when most others are getting paid from work. It’s a cruel punishment for being self-employed. I was afraid my face was turning red as I waited in the courtroom thinking about this injustice.

They changed the procedure because of the pandemic, and I could not figure out the best strategy for getting excused. Some people stood up and tried the best excuses they could come up with, but most of them failed. Only the most desperate circumstances were accepted, like an appointment for open-heart surgery. But even those people were simply rescheduled, not excused. Two Chinese ladies were excused because they could barely understand what the judge was saying. Unfortunately, my English has become too good to steal their idea. I thought perhaps I could be dismissed if I played a psychotic, but my wife informed me that Liz Lemon in 30 Rock has already tried it.

During the lunch break, I walked over to Frenchette Bakery to get a few items and sat in the park next to the courthouse to brainstorm with myself, but I came out empty-handed.

Back in the courtroom, they randomly selected half of the room and made the rest wait outside in case some of the selected people could not serve. The clerk called my name with the best pronunciation she could conjure in her mind. Now, I have a roughly 50% chance of serving this 8-day trial.

At the last minute, it occurred to me, “Why should I pretend like someone else? I’m annoying enough naturally.” I decided to turn up my own volume to 11. My first idea was to debate the definition of “reasonable” as in “beyond reasonable doubt.” The “reason” part sounds like they want mathematical precision, but the “able” part sounds like they just want something good enough. Which is it?

In the end, I argued with the judge, through the microphone, on the definition of “credible.” After some heated exchange, she realized it was not worth her time, and the prosecutor and the defense lawyer quickly agreed. I was a free man.