Scott Ferguson provides copywriting and marketing communications services to a wide variety of corporate clients.


Scott Ferguson 310.455.1413

It’s finally happened. The Los Angeles County Court system has run out of retirees and lonely folks with nothing better to do than sit stone faced in jury boxes throughout the county. So the judicial authorities are now recruiting doctors, lawyers, judges, and Hummer-driving neocons with a vengeance not seen since the Selective Service System went hunting for innocent young men during the Vietnam war era.

If you live in Los Angeles county, you’ve either recently been summoned or know someone who has. And every one of these otherwise upstanding, tax-paying citizens is frantically trying to figure out one thing: How the hell do I get out of this?

When you think about it, this is a job that wields great power. Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to sit in judgment of a fellow human being? Countless people in our society claw and scrape, lie, cheat and steal to attain absolute power over others. Take politicians, for example. Or your sixth grade gym teacher. But an invitation to slam your fist on a table and shout, "He’s guilty, I say!" is about as welcome as termites and just about as hard to eliminate. Why is that?

One word: boredom. On second thought, I need a few more words: excruciating, stupefying, lobotomizing, put-a-stake-through-my-skull-and-bury-me-in-maggots boredom. It’s not that we’re unwilling to perform our civic duty. It’s that we’re all deathly afraid of being sequestered in a windowless, airless room and forced to listen to a bunch of droning lawyers without being allowed to scream. Or even grimace.

Here’s just a taste of what I experienced after recently receiving my draft notice, er, Jury Summons:

I show up in the Jury Assembly Room at 8:00 AM, where a United Nations-like cross section of Stepford Wives (and Husbands) are already looking like they are at a funeral—their own. An hour of absolute black hole-like nothingness passes before a dour-faced guy says something, which I can’t hear probably because I’m suffering from a temporary hearing loss caused by my head having slipped off my hands and hitting the table.

After another forty-five hours—wait, that can’t be right, it must have been minutes—Dour-Faced Man announces the need to separate the herd (into Guernsey and Holstein I presume, or was it shirts and skins?—hey, now there’s an idea that might enliven the proceedings). Seems they need the Holsteins at another courthouse across town.

Us Guernseys are finally told to see what’s behind door number three which presumably is a courtroom but we aren’t sure because we have to wait outside in the bile-colored corridor for another 30 minutes. Once we're all invited into the courtroom, we are ceremoniously given the opportunity to wait some more in chairs that make coach airline seats seem like Barcaloungers, while experiencing varying degrees of deep vein thrombosis in our now useless legs.

The ensuing five hours then made what I just described seem like Mardi Gras on acid in comparison. Did I mention that the experience was, uh, melt-your-brain boring?

If the court systems across the country really want to get off the "I-hate-this-more-than-Osama" list, they need to make the whole juror selection and serving process more interesting and challenging. They need a little Hollywood-style promotion and a dose of creativity. Here are my suggestions:

>Competition—Inject some reality show animosity among jurors by making them compete for the right to sit in a special shiatsu massage chair in the jury box.

>Better pay—$15 a day? Gimme a break. Consider each juror a consultant and pay them the same hourly rate as the defense attorney. That should make for shorter trials.

>Spruce the place up—I realize we’re talking about a joint run by the government, the arbiter of architectural bad taste, and that making a courtroom a place where Martha Stewart would feel at home (OK, bad example) would be as easy as nailing Jello to a tree, but a few well-placed flower arrangements and a splash of color would do wonders for everyone's mood.

>Door prizes—Conduct a drawing at the end of each day and the winning juror gets to take home the defense table centerpiece.

 


FreeCounter