Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jury Duty - part 2

What a relief yesterday to be able to go back to Jury Duty without having to contend with bad weather! The sidewalks had cleared a bit and I was able to take public transportation to reach the downtown situated court building.

The reporting hour was set a bit later, but this meant that I would encounter the busiest commuting time in NYC, and so it was, for both the bus taken first and the subway ride that followed. Nonetheless, I reached the JD pool room in perfect time, and settled down waiting to be called. As mentioned, the majority of the people summoned this week are quite young. They all came armed with their super slick laptops that could easily be put online thanks to the Wi-Fi facility provided by the city in the waiting rooms. Mobile phones and related gadgetry were also allowed to be used, but they had to be put into vibrating mode to receive calls.

I decided to only carry my cell phone and to give myself a bit of rest from being online. Cameras had to be deposited at the front desk since no pictures can be taken inside a court building. For a while I enjoyed instead looking around and watching people's behavior and body language, in some cases interesting indeed!

By mid morning my name was called again, but this time it was for a civil lawsuit, which is conducted quite differently from a criminal case. Interviewing prospective jurors is handled by the plaintiff's and defense's lawyers in smaller 'impanelling' rooms,s and not in front of a judge. The typical jury for these cases consists of only 6 jurors, with 2 alternates. Compared to a few years ago current procedures are much more efficient, thus providing much less loss of idle time for everyone.

For civil cases in NY there is now a questionnaire to be filled out that allows the lawyers to quickly gather a bird-eye-view of each juror without having to repeat a preset list of questions, and, instead, to spend their time zeroing in the specifics they are interested in for each individual.

By lunch time yesterday they had picked half of the needed jury team, and by 3pm the entire process was completed. I received my confirmation of inclusion by the duty clerk, who congratulated me in his own office, because the lawyers, after discussing among themselves the results of their interviews, would not reveal publicly their choices.

With a big smile the duty clerk then handed the whole team a slip of paper indicating when we are to report back for the trial. With a day off today, discussion of the case in front of a judge will begin on Friday morning.

Incredibly, NYC is expecting another wave of snow during the night, I have to brace myself to meet more than one challenge tomorrow!!

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