Civic duty, schmivic duty–the fact is, when faced with the annual call to jury duty, most of us are just trying to get out of it. Oh sure, in the abstract, we all are charmed by the idea of jury duty–we like the idea that average citizens get to sit on a jury and everything. We simply don’t fancy ourselves to be average citizens. And besides, it’s expensive to take time off work to be on a jury! We are working folk–our time is valuable. And until the day that more employers start compensating employees while they’re sitting on a jury–or when they get enough wireless access at the Criminal Justice Center to allow the self-employed to work while waiting around all day, we simply cannot afford, in this economy, to take the time off from work. And those of us with kids, well–it’s not just time away from work, it’s also making alternative childcare arrangements, which is more of our hard-earned money!
I see that you’re opening up your ironic violin cases, internet, but listen: it’s not that we’re not grateful for the fact that we live in a country that uses juries. We know how lucky we are! We just want to have somebody do all the work for us. And please don’t blame the messenger–30 Rock even did a whole episode on this issue, where Tina Fey dresses up like Princess Leia to make them think she’s crazy, in order to get out of jury duty, and then they tell her that she’s way saner than anybody there already, remember? And similarly, if you give them a financial sob story, they’re just going to tell you that everyone’s in the same boat, so cry me a river. Ultimately, I know I’m not the only one who feels ambivalent about jury duty, and as I write this I’m feeling my own dread at the prospect of dealing with jury duty today and crossing my fingers that one of these methods below saves me from being placed on a jury. Read on: I won’t tell anyone that you did.
- Never receive the notice for jury duty in the first place. Of course, it would be immoral, irresponsible, and probably illegal for me to advise you to do anything to tamper with mail. So naturally I would not do anything like that. But I can direct your attention to the undeniable fact that a lot of times mistakes happen with the US Postal Service. Sometimes you move without leaving a forwarding address. Sometimes you have a surly, angry mailman who loses things or delivers them to the wrong house number. Sometimes your jury notice gets stuck into the catalog from One Step Ahead, and then you don’t even see it, before you throw it into the dumpster. I’m just saying.
- Postpone indefinitely. It used to be a lot easier, at least in California, to get out of jury duty by saying you had some kind of scheduling conflict. Now, this won’t get you out of the obligation to serve, but it might allow you to postpone your service date. You can use this as a means of postponing your service indefinitely and see how that goes for you–it’s not a guarantee you won’t have to sit in a small room with the unwashed masses for 8 hours doing nothing at some point, but it is a guarantee you won’t have to do it tomorrow.
- In a criminal case, work in something about how you think most people who get pulled over or questioned by cops are probably guilty of something. The main thing with a criminal case is to come across in the extreme on one side or the other, so if it’s a criminal case, you want people to believe that you believe way too strongly that law enforcement is always right (or, always wrong). These are the kind of biases that are very difficult to overcome with argument, so one side or the other (or both) is likely to dismiss someone who (convincingly) betrays these kinds of beliefs.
- If all else fails, express extreme dismay at the prospect of being placed on a jury via audible sighs and rolling-of-eyes. I used this last-ditch method myself successfully the last time I was up for jury duty. And it was down to the wire, man–they were stacking the jury with PhDs because it was a civil case (medical malpractice) that involved some kind of complex issues. I was in the alternate’s seat, so not only was I going to be forced to attend the entire trial on mind-numbingly boring but complex topics having to do with LASIK surgery, I was not even going to be able to weigh in on the verdict! Then, as the woman in the last seat was dismissed, I involuntarily audibly sighed and groaned, and rolled my eyes at the prospect of being stuck there for at least another week, and probably longer. This was simply my natural reaction to my fate, but the attorney for the defense said, “Based on Ms. Viele’s reaction just now, we’re going to dismiss her.” It may have been the only time in my life my crappy attitude has been a benefit to me. BOOOM!