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Aaron N. Tubbs

Dragon chaser.

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A few years ago I was selected for federal jury duty. This, in the end, meant I sent a form through the mail, called a phone number for a week straight, and then was told I was unnecessary. Pretty much a non-event.

I was summoned to the Stamford Superior Court today. I called the number last night, and it said that all jurors had to report, so I did. At 8:30AM, as required. Nothing happened between 8:30AM and 9AM. So, really, you have to report by 9AM.

At 9AM, we were shown an instructional video, it lasted 15 minutes. We were given a break until 9:50.

So, really, you don’t need to show up until 9:50, if you read your juror booklet, as instructed.

Except we didn’t actually get started until 10:30.

We took an oath at 10:30, the lawyers from the first case presented, they called out 25 names that could be potential jurors (randomly picked from the population of over 100 people), and then the process was repeated for the second case. I was selected as a potential juror for the second case. Everybody else was left hanging until about 11:45 at which point they were told their services would not be needed.

From 10:30 on was the voir dire process, which in Connecticut Superior Court means you get individually interviewed by the lawyers on the case. This process continued until just before five, at which point I was the _only remaining person in the entire room that hadn’t been dismissed or called for voir dire. At this point I was told that they’d picked their last juror and I could leave. I guess this means I’m the least desirable juror, ever, since I wasn’t even given a chance to go through voir dire. I guess I’m okay with that, beyond that it was a colossal amount of time for a non-event.

I’m pretty okay with the notion that I am required to do civil service and serve on a jury. In a weird way, I was looking forward to being part of that process. I wasn’t really part of that process, though, I was just a statistical pawn whose time was thoroughly wasted for no productive reason. I understand why people fight so hard to avoid jury duty now — it’s not because they want to shirk their responsibility, it’s because the system is so depressingly inefficient.

I was under the mistaken impression that I’d show up to the courtroom today, be interviewed, and either sent home or put on a case. Like, today. The legal system does not move at that sort of pace, and I was hopelessly naive. The reality is that this is a day-long process to decide whether or not you’ll be selected for a multi-day court appearance sometime in the future.

What’s astonishing to me is how incredibly inefficient and wasteful the system is. Or maybe it’s not astonishing, and it’s why everybody complains. It was still somewhat shocking to experience it first-hand. It’s all coordinated via pieces of paper being passed around. There are structural pauses at each step to collate paper slips, make photocopies, print (dot matrix, baby) rosters, re-print rosters, and so forth. Then it’s a completely un-pipelined single-file process that’s been designed for no other purpose than inflating the billable hours for the legal staff on a particular case. Perhaps this process is “fair” (though the jury selection process seemed more like an elaborate game than anything fair I’ve come across), but it sure seems stupid.