Its 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, youve 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 wouldnt 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, "Hes 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. Its not that were unwilling to perform our civic duty. Its that were 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.
Heres 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 funeraltheir own. An hour of absolute black hole-like nothingness passes before a dour-faced guy says something, which I cant hear probably because Im suffering from a temporary hearing loss caused by my head having slipped off my hands and hitting the table.
After another forty-five hourswait, that cant be right, it must have been minutesDour-Faced Man announces the need to separate the herd (into Guernsey and Holstein I presume, or was it shirts and skins?hey, now theres an idea that might enliven the proceedings). Seems they need the Holsteins at another courthouse across town.
Us Guernseys are finally told to see whats behind door number three which presumably is a courtroom but we arent 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:
>CompetitionInject 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 upI realize were 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 prizesConduct a drawing at the end of each day and the winning juror gets to take home the defense table centerpiece.
©Copyright Scott Ferguson.