Jury Duty at the Westchester County Courthouse in White Plains was about as painless as it gets. Everyone treated jurors with friendly respect and concern. That went for security officers, attorneys, commissioners, and judges too.
A Criminal Case
On Monday, I waded into a pool which would yield 12 jurors and 6 alternates for a criminal case slated to go 2-3 weeks! And what a case! Sexual molestation of children over several years.
I couldn’t believe my luck. I got through 4 calls of 18 on Monday and Tuesday without hearing my name! Then on Tuesday, I returned from lunch to learn jury selection was complete. Whooh! Report to the Commissioner, the Judge said. Freedom, we thought. Not quite.
Civil Case In Supreme Court
“You belong to us for 5 days,” the Commissioner said, “and we’re short of jurors.” After saying sayonara to a 5-7 week case that would cause undue hardship, I escaped into a pool for a messy civil case in Supreme Court. It had been bouncing around the system for over 4 years and needed 6 jurors and 2 alternates. This time, I was the first juror selected. Ugh!
The jury panel looked like Middle America. Young and old. Men and women. Black, white and Hispanic. It included students and professionals. There was a tax attorney, a marine architect, a corporate VP, and a nursing supervisor. Interesting people. All cordial, courteous, connected and clued-in. I loved ’em all.
Hurry Up and Wait
For the most part, Jury Duty is hurry up and wait. When the waiting time looked short, we told stories and joked. When it looked long, we retreated into our private spaces. We read, listened to music, texted, emailed and tried to do a little work. Stylish Sara, a plump, 50-ish black exec and I usually shared a work space. We chugged away on our laptops, talking to ourselves as we worked.
Everything was clean, modern and tasteful. Not Better Homes and Gardens, but nice. The juror’s lounge and jury room were almost luxurious and quite comfortable. Good thing. We spent most of our time in those rooms. The juror’s box in the courtroom was stylish but uncomfortable. It held sparkling, polished pine chairs that looked great. But they got us shifting and stretching after 5 minutes, aching after 10. Good thing we spent no more than 3 hours all week listening to testimony.
The Nuts and Bolts of It
The case involved a mellifluous City Island contractor who was was Grade A+ eye candy with a demeanor to match. He duped the Hernandez’, a Mount Vernon couple — stereotypical transplanted South Bronx. She’s petite, dyed blond, domineering, and emotional. He’s chubby, balding, stalwart and slick. But it was hard to like either side. The contractor had a team of full-throated, well-rehearsed, theatrical attorneys. Dewey, Cheatum and Howe. The defendants had a mustached mumbler, who stumbled, apologized and rarely completed a sentence. Mr. Farango invented the role of sacrificial lamb.
Last Minute Release
It came down to the wire. On Friday, we returned from lunch at 1:55 pm as instructed and waited in the Jury Lounge. At 3:10 pm a Court Officer, in bullet-proof vest, entered the lounge. He said the Honorable Lester Adler (real name) was conferencing with the attorneys. The Officer said he’d return at 4:00 pm with an update.
He returned at 3:45 and led us up the private stairway to the courtroom. Don’t sit down, said the Judge. There’s been a settlement. Yada, yada, yada. You did a fabulous job. We owe you a debt of gratitude. Without you, this case would still be litigating. Yada, yada, yada. Bye bye now. The Officer will conduct you to the Commissioner who will award your Certificates.
Release! No Federal Jury service required for 4 years. No other jury service for 6. We couldn’t leave fast enough!
P.S. Contrary to popular expectations, my check for 5 days of jury duty landed in my mailbox just 9 calendar days after I completed service. They really, really want jurors to feel important.Except as noted, the names have been changed for privacy.