In Defense of Jury Duty

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People often tell me about the jury summons they received or their experiences serving as a juror, usually with a groan.  If they’ve been summonsed, they want to get out of it, and if they’ve been called to serve in the past, many express relief that the case was resolved before trial or that they weren’t selected and got to go home after a few hours.

I’ve never served on a jury myself, and I probably never will now that I’m a lawyer.  Most American adults, in fact, will not be called for jury duty.  According to one source, less than a third of American adults have ever served on a jury, and the number of federal jury trials is declining.

I have, however, worked in several courts and sat through a number of jury trials.  In this post, I hope to demystify jury duty and maybe even convince you to be excited about your next jury summons.  My discussion will mostly center on the federal courts, as each state does things a little differently.

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A New Project for the New Year

Happy 2017!  Last spring, I decided to get up early every weekday morning and write before going to work.  After reading nonfiction for years, the time seemed right to tell my own story.  My initial plan was to write a series of personal essays and reflections that I might eventually compile into a memoir.  The process was revealing, therapeutic, and cathartic.  In no time, I was hooked on writing.  I started writing poems – something I’d loved to do as a child – and enrolled in a poetry workshop class through Coursera.  I found a couple of local poetry groups and attended a few of their readings and workshops.  Then I decided to try my hand at fiction and began working on a novel.  At the end of 2016, I had lots of ideas, a big stack of unfinished pieces, and no clear plan of what to do with them.  Read more