There comes a time when we, as U.S. citizens, are called to step forward and — just as Americans have been doing for more than 200 years — devise a lame excuse to get out of jury duty. This time-honored tradition dates back to the very first jury pool, which John Handcock was excused from from jury duty after complaining of “hand cramps of the severest nature.”
As it stands, I’ve been excused from jury duty twice, despite expressing my willingness to serve. For as long as it took. Even if it meant contacting the Mother Ship to ask for more time.
So when my latest summons came in the mail, my first instinct was to make a tinfoil hat with the words, Hello: My Name Is Quandar written across the front which, along with my silver jump suit, can usually get me dismissed in less than 30 minutes (depending on how quickly my tinfoil hat clears security).
But this time something is different. Maybe because I’m older, maybe because my daughter is studying the U.S. Constitution, or maybe because we’re out of tinfoil. Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to dress appropriately, show up for jury duty, and take a chance on being sequestered with 11 others to determine — by weighing the scales of justice through painstaking consideration of evidence and testimony — who is at fault when someone has burned themselves with a hot pickle slice.
Admittedly, I once found myself driving down the road with an 800-degree onion ring searing my flesh. I had just left a Car’s Jr. drive-through and, after maintaining my composure long enough to exit the parking lot, pounced on my combo meal like a hyena at a gazelle feed — laughing and eating, laughing and eating.
So, when I ripped into an enormous onion ring and felt the breading fall away into my lap, I had no one but myself to blame when my appetizer became a sizzling, onion-flavored chin strap that turned my frenzied laughing to screaming on I-5. But I never once thought of calling a lawyer in an effort to seek damages against Carl’s Jr. and the onion growers of America for supplying me the means with which to be an idiot.
As we’re all aware, this isn’t always the case.
I believe frivolous lawsuits are the reason a lot of people aren’t willing to serve as jurists. For example, a study conducted in California found that of the 4.4 million people summoned for jury duty in Orange County last year, only 9 percent actually participated in the judicial process. Of course, this doesn’t include those who became part of that process after being fingerprinted.
In all fairness, I should also mention that not every potential juror would’ve qualified for duty anyway. That’s because there are strict guidelines in place for the initial phase of the jury selection process — the first of which is that you actually have to be ALIVE in order to render a verdict.
In spite of these stringent guidelines, a report commissioned by the American Tort Reform Association discovered that Los Angeles County not only summoned dead people for jury duty, but also people’s pets. While this is certainly shocking, there is some good news in that none of these pets were dead.
While the study was able to determine that absolutely no pets had played a part in the final outcome of any cases, according to the bailif in one case, “It was only because that little cockapoo couldn’t read the verdict.”
The only way to increase participation in the jury process is to restore the respectability of the judicial system by eliminating stupid lawsuits that waste everybody’s time. How? By requiring the people who file them to serve as jurors.
In the meantime, I’ll be on my way to court next week.
Assuming I don’t burn myself on a hot pickle.
(You can write to Ned at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR 97439)