Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Impaneled but not in-juried!

I did my civic duty today by showing up in the Torrance courthouse (Los Angeles Superior Court) for another stint of jury duty.  I have served at this courthouse now four times--three times (including today) under the one day or one trial system and one time for a week where I had to show up every day and sit from 8 a.m. to 3 or 4 or 5 p.m.  That jury service was also in the old jury room in the basement with inadequate seating and no bathrooms.  Luckily I was much younger then with fewer needed trips to the WC.

The new jury room is in a trailer with an outdoor area where you can sit or smoke.  I spent part of my day outside in the sun in the afternoon until the smokers and a really annoying engineer from Boeing drove me away.  The interior of the trailer is now outfitted with free computers and wifi.  There is a very nice magazine rack with reasonably current magazines.  I had my Kindle, Blackberry and some paperwork to keep me busy.  Interestingly no one turned on the televisions in the jury room today.  I actually might have liked to see the coverage of the Prop 8 decision but if the TVs were on, in Torrance, most likely they would have been set to Fox news.

Since I missed the deadline to do the orientation online, I arrived a little after 8 a.m. this morning to face an interminable line to get into the courthouse.  Then a very bad video was shown which let us know that being on a real jury is even more fun than it appears on television!  The same clerk who has been in Torrance for years gave his usual comedy routine. E.g. "My name is Lerol. That's L-E-R-O-L.  Not Leroy.  And I know at least one of you today is going to call me Leroy anyway."  

As fate would have it, my name was called this time in the first round of names to report to Department E on the 4th floor.  We got a short written description of the case to read (a car accident case where the only determination would be the amount of damages) and then into the courtroom to find out who would be the lucky 12 called into the jury box.  I was called as Juror no. 5 (which number I promptly forgot which makes a difference later).  We had to answer questions about where we lived, what we did for a living and what other adults living with us or our adult children if they did not live with us did for a living.  I, of course, have many adults living with me as well as one not living with me.  I identified myself as a lawyer, my husband as a lawyer and my son as a legal assistant/paralegal.  Last time I was voir dired in a criminal case, the judge and counsel only wanted to know about what my husband did.  "Ooof, you are a studio lawyer.  We do not care.   Tell us all about your husband's life work because that is what is important in determining YOUR bias".  This time it was my work that mattered.  The judge asked me questions about where I worked before the studio, what kind of law I practiced then and what I did now, and whether I had done personal injury cases.  I sniffed a bit myself when asked about whether I had done personal injury cases--"oh no, never!" I declared.  And I made sure that they knew I had worked at big LA law firms doing entertainment litigation as well as the major studio for which I work now. Finally I told them that my husband did human rights and civil rights litigation which some people might consider personal injury work but I did not.  I was a veritable Chatty Cathy.  When the judge asked me about the other adults living in the house--my mother in law (retired NYC special education teacher), daughter in law (new mother) and her sister (helps with child care for my two grandchildren who live with us too) I cracked that I also had 3 dogs and a cat. The people in the court room laughed heartily--- except for the judge.

Not surprisingly, the plaintiff's lawyer thanked and excused Juror no. 5 as his first peremptory challenge.  I looked around and counted the chairs and then bolted out of my seat for the door.  The judge reminded me to leave behind the fact sheet about the trial and chided me for folding and scrunching it.  I laughed and said, I thought you were recycling them and then I was out in a flash with a huge smile on my face.

I missed out on the booty call in the afternoon but Lerol made us hang around to find out if the remaining few in the jury room would go out to one last court room where there was a scheduled trial.  At 4:15 he released us just as I was having a FB conversation with one of my husband's partners about whether PI lawyers could rightfully be called, even in jest, a lower life form!  I grabbed my completion certificate and headed out to my car for home, after a quick stop at the Torrance Library to pick up more course and books on disc. Today I got Christopher Hitchens' atheist tome and a two part course on the Old Testament aka the Hebrew bible.  Somehow I had a need for religion after my day with the California justice system.

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