I got served with a Grand Jury summons that I had already postponed. It isn’t that I don’t want to serve. I honestly think it could be a great learning experience. However, like a lot of people, I just don’t have time to spend a month away from work.
I tried doing some research on line to see what was expected when reporting for Grand Jury. What does it mean? How do you get selected? How long is service? Are you sequestered? Or is that only in murder cases? What can get you excused? Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything useful in my quick searches. (side note here: Does anyone else just glance at the first couple of hits and if the answer isn’t there you don’t go any further? Or is it just me? Millions of hits and pages of results and if it isn’t the first five I move on. Probably why no one reads this blog!)
So, it was with great dread when I drove up to the courthouse ready with a million excuses and praying one would work. Since I didn’t have any answers I decided to document my day. This is for Grand Jury reporting in Suffolk County New York.
First I had to find the flipping place. Thankfully, 700 hundred of my friends were pulling into the same place. Parking was a breeze and Thankfully, it wasn’t too cold as we all stood in line like a bunch of sheep waiting to be counted.
When I finally got up to the front of the line I saw the security measures. They had a bag check like the ones in the airports and the metal detectors. We were instructed to remove all metal and go through. I set the stupid thing off of course. I went through three times and finally the guy just used his wand on me. I was finally deemed safe and moved to the waiting area. GET THERE EARLY! I was ten minutes early and the seats were already filling up. By the time we started it was standing room only. GET THERE EARLY.
Now started the waiting – which honestly is what I have established Grand Jury Selection to be…just a bunch of waiting. I brought a book with me, but found myself people watching more than reading. It really was close to 700 people. I have never been in a room with that many people before and I don’t ever want to again. I looked at my number, I was 692 out of who knows how many. Would they honestly need me by the time my number came up? I was still so confused as to how this worked? Would I have to go in front of the judge…in their robes….! I started getting nervous.
Finally a representative from the court came to explain the process, and my questions were finally answered. The following people may be excused from Grand Jury:
- People who would experience extreme financial hardship
- Medical problems
- Dependent caregiver
- Full or part time school
- Vacation already scheduled
- limited working knowledge of the English language
- Felon – although some felonies are okay…she didn’t specify which ones – so don’t assume that because you are one you will get out of it
- Already done Jury Duty within the last 4 or 6 years depending on which kind
- Over 70 and choose not to
A grand Juror decides which cases will go to trial. In Suffolk County New York you get $40.00 dollars a day for serving. The length is four weeks, Monday through Friday 9-5. There are multiple locations and you don’t get to choose which one you will go to.
She then asked for volunteers to come up who would then be selected to go. The volunteers, even if they weren’t selected, would have their obligation considered met and would not have to serve again for either 4 or 6 years – I can’t remember which.
So here I am thinking, no WAY is anyone going to stand up and volunteer for this. To my surprise, a lot of people did. Enough people stood up to volunteer that no one else was required to go and wait for selection. The rest of us were excused for another 6 months. Yes – you heard me right. If you didn’t volunteer you are just going to keep getting called in every 6 months or so. As the lady said, they don’t forget about you. Kind of makes you feel good knowing someone will be looking for you every few months.
Just when we were going to get excused, another person came out and told us that New York was is DIRE need of blood donations. So another group of us got up to donate. I did because, why not I love donating blood and I was already off for the day. (I have low blood pressure so I get woozy when I donate – tends to make doing it on my lunch hour tough)
When we got to the blood donation section (more waiting), we were informed that by donating blood we would be excused for TWO YEARS! Hell ya for being awesome people! I was so excited about this. My excitement diminished as we waited, and waited, and waited to be called up to donate. I was thankful there were so many people who wanted to, but also was done with all the waiting. When I finally got up I was told I could not donate because I had a cold. Information that would have been useful two hours prior. However, because I volunteered to donate blood, I was still excused from duty for TWO years. I’ll take it.
I walked out of the building and back to my car like a little kid with their chores done and fishing pole in their hand.
The rest of the afternoon was mine….so what did I do with this freedom?
Went to work of course.