Back in December I got a summons. A summons for jury selection. Somehow, despite living in Toronto for almost 22 years, I’d never gotten one. But there it was, in the mail.
Weirdly, at least according to most people I knew who’d been summoned to jury selection, I was called on a Thursday. I wasn’t sure what to make of that, but I told my boss and booked off Thursday and Friday, thinking “Surely, it’ll be done in two days.” This past Thursday, at 9am, I reported for a jury selection panel at the courthouse on University Avenue.
As I took my seat on a hard, old bench that reminded me of the pews of my parents’ church before they added cushions, a bailiff (maybe? He referred to himself as more of a “greeter”) explained that the selection process could take five days. Eep. OK, so some rescheduling would be in order, but I’m in the lucky position of being able to manage that without being fired or neglecting a child, even if it would be a big pain in the ass.
The greeter then explained that Thursday panels are special panels, in that they’re intended to select 14 of the 280 prospective assembled jurors to serve in a much longer trial. Could be weeks, could be months. Panic gripped the room. Months? Seriously? Now I, too, was getting nervous. I have three trips booked in March, and work would get…well, completely away from me if I were stuck in a courtroom for months. Of course I want to do my civic duty, but holy smokes. Have (relative) mercy.
Eventually, the judge entered the room, thanked us for being there, and explained that the accused had plead guilty. We were free to go home, and excused from jury duty for three years. Shouts of joy, there were. A little inappropriate, given that courtrooms are meant to be somewhat more staid than that — and really, rooms away, someone had just committed to years in prison, so was our plight really so bad? — but I kind of understood. I felt relief too. But I do hope to serve on a jury one day. I know that sounds odd to most people, but as the judge that day pointed out it’s one of the few ways we as citizens are compelled (outside of paying taxes) to demonstrate our citizenship.
The next time I’m called I’ll try to remember that it’s not a burden, but rather a duty to be managed.
Cover photo by randy p, used under Creative Commons license