Saturday, May 22, 2010

that third cup...

Civic duty. n -the responsibilities of a citizen.

Duty. Obligation. Responsibility. The social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force; "every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty"- John D. Rockefeller Jr.

I received a letter in the mail a few weeks ago. Stamped 'SUMMONS' from the City of Lakewood. I felt a bit of anxiety in opening the damn thing. What does the clerk of courts want with me? Anytime I get paperwork like that unexpectedly, I can feel my abdomen tighten with trepidation.

Jury Duty.

I’ve been called to serve on a jury and I must report at 9:00 am to the court house. My first thought it Oooh! Fun! It’ll be like on Law & Order! But I’ve never watched Law & Order, so immediately you can see my brain in out of skew.

The instructions listed were to call the day before after 4:00pm to make sure the jury is going forward. I’m to understand that many times cases get settled before they actually make it to jury selection. 4:01pm I place my call.

“Hi. I received a letter instructing me to call?” I ask the woman who answers the phone.

“Your juror number please?”

“Juror number 10.” I politely respond.

“Thank you, Nancy” I’m slightly taken aback that she know my name. Caller ID? No. She’s obviously looking at a list. “I appreciate your calling. The jury is not going forward this week.”

“Aw. That’s too bad. I was kind of looking forward to it! I’ve never been called for jury duty before.”

As these words are coming out I’m instinctively reaching for my shoe so I can insert it into the hole that serves as my mouth. Shut up Nancy, my mind is screaming.

“Really?” the lady chuckles. “Would you like to serve on next weeks jury? We rarely get anyone that wants to do this, they normally call with excuses to get out of doing it. Some of them are just priceless.”

It was too late. I could have said ‘No’, but I didn’t. She scheduled me for the following weeks jury. Juror number 19 this time.

Wednesday morning as I was getting ready to leave, I started putting on the usual daily uniform. Jeans, tee, cardigan, flip flops. I looked in the mirror and thought, Duh. Show some respect to the court. You can’t wear jeans. What were you thinking? I quickly, as I’m running a little behind, change into some trousers and pumps. The rest is fine.

At the courthouse I’m guided to the appropriate window to sign in. “Good morning. Please sign your name here and print your address below, please.” I do so and respond with good wishes for their day as well. The sun is shining, the air fresh. It’s perhaps one of the nicest days we’ve had in weeks…and I’m headed into a courthouse. By my own doing from opening my pie hole a little too wide.

“Oh! Nancy McDonnell!” she exclaims. “We had a judge Nancy McDonnell.”

This I know because a.) I’ve met her before. b.) I get many official invitations to political rallies and dinners addressed to her. c.) I get offers that people would like to work on my campaigns and d.) this is the one that frightens me sometimes; I get phone calls late at night from the police station wanting me to sign emergency warrants.

No one likes to wake at 2am by a phone call that the caller ID identifies as the police station.

I was arrested once (yeah , I know. Little ol' me…I’ll tell you all about it sometime) and had the jail in a tissy because word spread that Nancy McDonnell had been arrested and was presently incarcerated. The police were very nice, I don’t think they knew whether I was the Nancy McDonnell or another…so they were on their best behavior just in case. They didn’t even put me in a cell, they let me sit at the desk until someone came to pick me up. Even brought me coffee. I guess it helps sometimes to share a name.

I smile and say, “Yes, I know. I’ve met her. But I’m not her, trust me.”

By the time I’ve been escorted to the chambers where the jury is housed before going to the courtroom I’ve gone through this schpiel several times. Finding a chair I look around. My fellow potential jurors obviously didn’t think the same thing I did about respecting the court.

Yes, there are a few that are dressed obviously for work hoping to get out of here soon. A young man with a tie; an older gentleman with trousers and tennis shoes; the lady in the suit that is busy pecking away on her Blackberry even though there is a large sign that says ‘No Cell phones’. That obviously must not apply to her.

There’s a young girl in skinny jeans, pink streeked hair and Converse high tops that looks like she works at Starbucks (which ironically during questioning later we find that she does work at Starbucks); an overweight younger man in his mid 30's with a huge black t-shirt emblazoned with Led Zeppelin over long hip-hop shorts. He looks like he still lives at home and is missing out on serious PS3 zombie killing time. His hair is longer but has that ubiquitous balding spot. He never meets anyone’s eyes. He hangs his head, fiddles with his hands and just looks angry and miserable; and a gal missing many teeth that is shoveling the donut holes the court provided into her mouth at an alarming rate. She informs us that she never is up this early. (9:15) Wow. Really? That’s so unbelievable…ha.

It’s an interesting crowd to say the least. Thirty random people in Lakewood all gathered here for their chance to serve their civic duty to their city. A few know each other and are talking about their kids soccer games or PTA meetings. Lakewood is a small town. But I don’t recognize any of these people. There is one gal that I think works at the party store, or is it the grocery? I’m not sure. I’ve seen her face but don’t know who she is.

As we are waiting in this conference room I wonder what kind of case it will be? Not much happens here in Lakewood. If this venue had been in Cleveland proper, it could be anything. But in Lakewood? I’m sure they won’t turn this into a TV show.

The baliff appears at the door. He calls our names and line us up to walk single file into the courtroom. As juror 19, I’m in the second row. They call the first eight jurors up into the stand and start their questioning. Married? Employed? Where do you work? Ever been assaulted? Ever been the victim of a crime? How do you feel the police handled the situation? Do you know any of these other people sitting by you? Anyone in your family work in law enforcement?

Same questions, many times over. I'm starting to get bored. I stifle a yawn.

The benches in the courthouse are wood. Like old church pews. As I’m sitting there listening I come to the realization that I shouldn’t have had that third cup of coffee. Or I should have used the restroom when they said “If you need to use the bathroom you should do so now before we go into the courtroom” Ooops.

I’m glancing at the clock as the judge is thanking us for our being here. That we will be taking breaks. That they never know how long these things will last and that by us appearing here at court as prospective jurors, this is how the justice system continues to be fair and impartial by citizens such as ourselves.

Judging by the progress made thus far, I’m thinking, You can hold it, Nancy. I’m also thinking I should’ve worn those crepe soled shoes rather than the leather ones, these click on the tile and I can’t sneak out if needed without drawing attention.


The defense lawyer is ill-prepared. He obviously doesn’t do this much. He keeps referring to his notes and his delivery then is ill-timed because he has to keep flipping through pages. His client keeps turning his head and rolling his eyes. Even the judge is looking at him impatiently. Blue pin striped suit, double vent, jacket a little too snug. He doesn‘t miss many meals this guy. Black hair done Guido style with a little too much hair goop. He’s one of those that hangs out after work downtown letting any stray female know he’s a lawyer. I can just picture it. Fact is, when out I purposely sidestep these characters.

His client is a middle aged man wearing perhaps his best clothes. Black leather jacket and khaki pants. Black tennis shoes. Slumped shoulders, wiry black hair, mustache. The charge is assault. At a car wash.

The City of Lakewood’s prosecutor starts with her questioning of the jurors on the stand. Until she introduced herself, I figured she was a stenographer. She’s poorly dressed. As I’m looking at her, I feel badly for her. Her hair is greasy…like two days past acceptable greasy. It’s shoulder length and hangs in the back like spaghetti. She’s wearing a floral skirt. White background with large hot pink hibiscus on it. Little clear palettes make it shimmer. It would be nice and appropriate for a summer wedding or cocktail party, but not in a courtroom. I can’t see what blouse she’s wearing from my seat but whatever it is, it’s covered up by a ridiculous oversized hot pink jean jacket. Ill fitting, but a hot pink jean jacket? Ina courtroom? I’m amazed that she hasn’t been given a dress code warning by the court. She’s even wearing sandals. And do I need to mention the white at this time of year? She's got so many Glamour don'ts added up, we need not add more.

To me? By her dress alone, she doesn’t carry any importance or authority.

This is fun, watching this court of law unfold. It’s some good people watching also. Except that my stomach is now making these sounds that alerts me I soon need to use the restroom. Luckily enough, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney are satisfied with the original eight people addressed. They pull one more and send her through the same question field and they are happy with her for an alternate.

The rest of us sitting in the courtroom are thanked for our time and dismissed. I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t even get called to be questioned, but happy in a way that I didn’t get called to the stand. I had to put a lot of things in place just in case I did have to spend the entire day here. So I’m ecstatic that on such a beautiful day I can do something other than watch these two unprepared, poorly dressed lawyers present their case.

I’m sure those called will be riveted by their performance.

I might not have been able to keep myself at break from informing the prosecutor that she’s dressed inappropriately. Maybe I’d have given her my business card. I could definitely help her with her professional wardrobe. The least I could do is to send her to my hairdresser to fix that mess.

CSI this was not. Or at least I’d assume it wasn’t even close.
I don’t watch that show either.

But now I’ve done my civic duty. I wonder if I’ll ever get called again. Probably not. But if I do, I’m not drinking coffee that day.

But I may wear jeans.


  1. Your experience mirrors one of mine. Is it a wonder why the legal system is considered broken? I don't understand why people don't take it a little more seriously, but, would certainly want someone of your caliber judging me if needed.

    Oh, and next time, make sure to pack a "Bladder Buddy" with you. "Discretely taking care of business without missing any of the action."

  2. I've never been called up for JD....hubby has 3 times! I must admit that I do hold entirely unrealistic notions about what it involves though (Paulie Shore generally influences this).

  3. Your visit to court mirrors my visits, but how lucky that you have never been called before. I get a summons about every 2 years,though I have never been picked to serve on a jury. Once I was unselected because I was dating the judge! Ha!

  4. I am sorely disappointed that your experience was nothing like Law and Order. I was hoping you'd at least hear the clunky music. (bom, bom, bom) I have always wanted to serve on a jury. Now, maybe not so much.

  5. Sounds like this scene was quite a sight to see. Luckily, I have a job that allows me to wear whatever I want. We all work together in an office building, but since we run web servers, no clients ever see us. But these people out in the middle of a courtroom? How can you expect to be taken seriously if you can't even appear professionally?

  6. Interesting take on jury duty! I once had to serve on a domestic abuse case. You could see that the guy had done it, but it was a he said/she said situation because the only person who saw anything didn't show up at court. It made me very sad. So be thankful that you didn't have to judge someone's life!

    The comments on wardrobe made me laugh though. A summer flower print dress and hot pink in court?! At least she was better prepared than the other guy!

  7. Courtrooms run so slow, you wonder how they get anything done. Quite disheartening actually.

  8. Its amazing how unprofessional some people can be, especially in court!

  9. I'm glad it turned out okay for you! Now you're off the hook for another decade.

    I was called for jury duty once. I had to travel, so I needed to discharge my obligation by showing up and disqualifying myself. When they questioned us (it was a case of a stereotypical Mexican husband with a giant hat and silver belt buckle who assaulted his mousy Mexican wife), I asked if he had attacked her many times before, as she was claiming, why was this the first time she brought charges? It was an obnoxious question which earned me the wrath of every woman in the room, but it had the desired effect of getting me disqualified. ;-)

  10. I was on a jury once... a capital murder case... it was horrific... but in thinking about the jury selection, the judge was asking some questions... and this one old woman told the judge she had a medical condition.... and I think meant to say, 'phlebitis'... but all she could manage was 'flea bites'... LOL...

    The judge did NOT release her, but I think neither attorney wanted her on the jury...


  11. I've participated in jury duty one time and an interesting case that only lasted the one day. I was young, still in college and was very excited to participate. But now? The hoops I'd have to jump through? - I'd dread jury duty. But you're right - the most interesting people watching adventure EVER!

  12. Nancy I think it so funny that you got yourself into such a predicament, your much smarter than that. I loved your descriptions of the attorneys and the fellow prospective jurors, brought back many a fond memory of my career in law enforcement. Note, as a cop I always feared what any juror might due,and worried about their biases. YOu can see why in big cases there are entire teams of people who study and give recommendations on potential jurors as well as give tips to attorneys about things like what to wear.

    You'll appreciate though, after seeing who else was there to potentially serve, cops often say a jury is made up of lots of old retired people with nothing else to do during the day and those not smart enough to get out of jury duty (you are obviously the exception to the rule). Believe me it is never as fun as Law and Order or CSI and never gets solved in an hour.

    PS thanks for your good wishes after the flood, I don't wish such a thing on anyone.

  13. Interesting. All the times I've been called up I've gotten out of it before even going down to the courthouse. I know I should want to do it but I have to say I don't. Good for you doing your civic duty.

  14. What a bummer that after all that, you weren't selected or even questioned!

  15. I have yet to even be called to jury duty, let alone try to get out of it. I can't believe you volunteered to go back! hehe

  16. I get to start calling in the end of the month. Here, when you're called, it's for the month. Call in each night after 5:00 and find out if you must report tomorrow. It's been several years since I was last called, and then I served on the jury for a trial that was done and decided before they could even order our lunch. I'm grateful I've been called during spring and summer, because the drive in winter is not fun. Law and Order it's not!

  17. How funny!

    I got called for jury duty when I was pregnant with Nicholas. I was hoping that would get me out of being on a jury, but no such luck. I was picked. I wasn't even showing yet, so I guessed they thought I could handle it.

    The main thing I remember now is the day we deliberated (is that the right word?), I had to have a friend pick Keira up from daycare so I didn't get charged the obligatory $15 per minute over-charge for being late. I think we were there until 6:30 p.m. or something as equally rediculous. I also remember it being nice out which worked out good at lunch time - I could go outside and sit in a nearby park to eat.

  18. Kudos to you. It is really a small price to pay to keep the legal system(albeit imperfect) rolling. I've been twice and in a bit larger city and was rather interesting. It really is great for people watching.

  19. hi Nancy...I had a similar experience to yours a few years back. I was called for jury duty and I am a dentist so missing work is deadly for me. Instead of calling in each night I decided to pick the day I would serve. Long story short I got called and chosen as you did to sit in the juror box. I had a moral dilemma. Do I try to lie to get out of this or bite the bullet and be honest? Fortunately the case was such that it was easy for me to truthful and I was biased. I was dismissed thank goodness and I felt relieved at 3:30 that my jury day was almost over. But lo and behold...I got called again for another panel. This was going to be a long trial...murder or something..and I really freaked. But the judge had mercy on me and dismissed me due to my job obligation. I have to admit it was a hoot listening to everyone's "reasons" as to why they could not serve. That in and of itself could be an entire blog post. I suppose if I were retired serving could be quite interesting. And as my lawyer husband always says...we like to complain about 'justice" being served yet none of us want to serve on a jury. I still include myself in the latter group!

  20. LOVE THE OCEAN PHOTO...did you take it? Your blog looks very interesting...must follow so I can come back and explore when I have more time...

  21. I actually enjoyed my stint on jury duty. But you're right about the whole coffee thing... the judge just doesn't understand about potty breaks!

  22. Sound's like a circus. I got called for jury duty once and I too was excited. I filled out the form and sent it back with a facade of inconvenience, but they never even responded. Perhaps they found something socially deviated in my handwriting. Maybe they read my blog. Either way, I'm offended.

  23. congrats for the experience. if your experience is like mine, you will be called again. 'they' say there isn't a list of willing people, but once i got summoned it seemed i got call regularly...

    wonderful story.

  24. I've never been called for jury duty, but how well I know the fun of people-watching and dissecting! You are right, there is always an appropriate way to dress, and I wish more people abided by that. This world would look so much nicer and command so much more respect. :-)

  25. The only time I have been called for Jury duty was when I was breast-feeding my new-born baby and was exempted.
    It sounds like I am not missing anything.

  26. I've always dreaded the "jury duty notice". Hubby served a few years ago and found it quite interesting. It is amazing what people do actually wear to court.

  27. Perhaps your civic duty was to hand them your business card and offer both attorney's "makeover" advise. Who knows, it could turn into a new sideline business for you -
    Fixing up Government slobs...

    Ugh.. now THAT would be a nightmare. :)

  28. I had fun at my duty too! Although I got picked and didn't get released till 8pm and had to hunt down a ride home.

  29. Hi Nancy! I must admit I've always been intrigued to give it a try, but I've never been called. I should be careful what I wish for, I suppose. And like yourself, I'd like to look smart, but comfortable too. It's a long day when you have to sit still, I imagine. Thanks for sharing, Indigo

  30. Your people watching skills are terrific, with descriptive skills to match. I think you'd be doing that prosecutor a favor giving her some wardrobe tips - greasy hair and not pink jacket? What is she thinking! Yikes.

  31. Boy I felt like I was sitting right next to you through the whole ordeal! I've never served on a jury, either. I think it would be interesting.

    Sounds like you are the fashion police. You'd probably take one look in my closet and throw all my clothes away and start from scratch. Boy that would be nice if I had the money to do that!

  32. Your description of the prosecutor was so vivid. I could just see her in my head. Eeekk!! I have never been called for jury duty either. But now, at least, I'll know what to wear!

  33. Ah yes, reality kills the romance once again. Funny story, Nancy!

  34. Really cute. I loved your descriptions of both attorneys. Love it.

  35. You're the only person I know who WANTS to serve on a jury.


    Check out my 25 Things blog that I tagged you in!!! :)


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