Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Refuse to Play Croquet with the Queen of Hearts

I was recently called for Jury duty. My arthritis makes it painful to sit for long periods of time, so I bought my stability disk to sit on.  The constant wobbling makes sitting much more comfortable.  Getting into the Jury Room requires going through security, much like at an airport.

The woman scanning the x-ray of my bike-bag asked “What is that big round thing?” fear obvious in her voice.  “That’s a stability disk. I sit on it because I have arthritis.” Her fear turned to curiosity.  “Where can I get one? I’ve got some torn ligaments and I can’t sit, either.”  Most sporting goods stores have them.

I’ve had odd questions about my stability disk at airport security, too. But never a potential sitting companion.

Once inside the Jury Room, I put the stability disk on a chair and waited to be called.  While waiting each potential juror is given a form to fill out.  One of the questions on the form is, “Will you accept the Judge’s interpretation to be the meaning of the law?”  I marked NO.  Supreme Court decisions aren’t unanimous. Judges disagree with each other all the time.  I can’t promise to agree with a judge without even knowing what the issue is.

When I was called for a jury pool, the case was a sad one.  A woman was suing her son and husband because her son’s dog knocked her down and she broke a bone and had to have surgery. The lawyers asked the entire pool if we thought it was legal for family members to sue each other. They asked if we owned dogs. If we had ever dog-sat. And then, they called us in for individual questioning.  Again, one of the lawyers asked, “Will you accept the judge’s interpretation for the meaning of the law?” And I told him what I’d put on the form.  “I can’t promise that without knowing exactly what the issue is.”

The lawyer said, “It’s not going to be ‘Off with her head!’”

But that’s exactly what the issue is.  If the judge can make up the rules as she goes along, then the issue is indeed “Off with her head!” That’s the epitome of a judge’s capriciousness. 

The lawyers were okay with this.  But as a citizen, in a society where we have trials with a jury of fellow citizens, I think it is a citizen’s duty to keep a watch on sanity in the courtroom as well as in society. If I can’t do that, then I may as well play croquet with the Queen of Hearts.  

I was not selected for that jury.

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