Thursday, February 3, 2011

On Justice

In preparation for my first jury duty ever, I asked my kids for pointers about "lawbreakers," one of Jack's many self-proclaimed areas of expertise. He immediately advised me to look for bags of money, which can be identified by a big S with two lines through it. These are almost certainly stolen, and anyone found carrying one is likely to be a lawbreaker. Zoe, on the other hand, told me that lawbreakers are shy of people, and I was therefore unlikely to spot one. "Don't be too sad if you don't see any, Mommy," she said, "they can be hard to find."

On arrival at the courthouse, I was startled at the sheer number of my fellow jurors. They were all sitting despondent in a huge room that was decorated with decades-old Baltimoricana, including a Pride of Baltimore poster that inexplicably featured the lyrics to a sea chantey. And no, Jenn, it was not "Send In the Powder Monkeys." After indulging a briefly amusing vision of leading the whole assembly in a rousing rendition of said chantey, I lapsed into despondency with the rest of them. However, this was despondency with a difference: WiFi! For a mere six bucks, I could enjoy a one-day "juror pass" with all the web access I could stand. Looking forward to a productive if not pleasant day of justice, I entered my visa number and got to work.

About 20 minutes later, along with about 150 of my fellow citizens, I was sent off to court to be considered as a potential juror for a murder trial. The alleged lawbreaker was right there, easy enough to spot, though devoid of any money bags. There was also a judge, rocking the classic black robe look, as well as attorneys, a bailiff, a mean lady who controlled our access to the bathroom, and a skinny teenage looking guy of dubious purpose. What was missing was WiFi. Or more accurately, there may well have been WiFi but it was irrelevant, as computers and cell phones were forbidden in the courtroom.

The dearth of electronic entertainment was compensated only by the ample availability of very hard benches featuring contours that are not in any way aligned with human anatomy. On one of these miracles of ass-numbing technology, I whiled away the next seven hours. I spent some of this time fretting about the work that I really should have been doing, but more of it was spent contemplating the stultifying boredom that seems to be a central pillar of our justice system. Finding twelve solid citizens who were qualified to pass judgment on a lawbreaker is approximately as time-consuming as finding a needle in a haystack. And considerably less interesting, as there is no hay.

My summary rejection by the defense attorney occured well after my hindquarters had grown entirely insensate, though I could have predicted it about ten minutes into the judge's opening remarks. When I told Jack and Zoe about it, they were indignant that I'd been rejected. I tried to explain about how the lawbreaker gets to help decide who judges whether he's really broken the law, and how he probably didn't want me since I'm an ER doctor and I don't like when people shoot each other. Which is true - I don't. The children were having none of it.

Zoe assured me that she would pick me for her jury if she broke the law. I thanked her, electing not to delve into the constitutional issues raised by this prospect, but advised her to stay on the right side of the law. Jack on the other hand, had nothing but disdain for the judgment of lawbreakers, saying "It's okay, Mommy. Lawbreakers never water their flowers anyway."


  1. Bahaha ....oh my word they are too amazing.

  2. omg. I want you to write about everything. You, and your offspring, are hilarious. xoxo

  3. shoot!! I never water my flowers!! does that mean im a law breaker??? or just an unlucky brown thumb who happens to have something in common with law breakers?

  4. Ha, I see that nothing but the expensive and nearly useless daily pass to wifi has changed in the Baltimore juror cattle call. I was there in....oh...1988? Dressed all in black and brought an ACTUAL book! Hamlet I think. Predictably, summarily dismissed after I confessed the title to the judge. The hard seats, oh yeah. But the pre and after commentary! there you are fortunate indeed! hilarious. xxk