29 November 2010

Civic Duty

When I told Oz that's I'd been summoned to jury selection, her response was "but you work full-time." I told her that juries aren't made up entirely of unemployed people. I think your employer has to give you time off to attend, but they don't have to pay you. Some people get paid jury duty leave, and happily I'm in that group, so attending jury selection caused me no hardships.

The panel that I belonged to was used to make two juries, and selection was last Monday and today. It's not a painful process by any definition. It was slow, but that was pretty much it. I think they summon around 400 people for the panel. Some of those don't show up, but they have to do a roll call to determine that. It took 15 minutes to read out all the names on the first day. Apparently the people who don't show up are hunted down and have to explain themselves. Next we went into the court room and waited for the judge. When he finally showed up, he started the first round of exemptions, for those people who would be greatly inconvenienced by serving on a two week trial. Most people were excused because they don't get paid leave for jury duty and can't go two weeks without money. Some people had medical conditions, some were self employed, some were caregivers and couldn't afford someone to replace them. Those kinds of things. That part took a long time, I'd estimate maybe 100 people got exemptions. It takes a long time because each person talks to the judge one-on-one to explain their situation. When that's over, we got a reading of the charges and heard the list of witnesses. Then it was time for the second round of exemptions, for those people who have relationships with people involved in the trial, or know one of the witnesses, or are otherwise connected to the case in some way that would cause them to be partial. That also took a while. I was surprised so many people had valid connections with the case. Times like that, Halimouth feels like such a small community.

After all that, they draw 12 names at random and then the lawyers get to say "content" if they want you on the jury and "challenge" if they don't like the looks of you. They're allowed a certain number of unexplained challenges, and the judge warned us beforehand not to take it personally. Really, I think most people that were challenged and didn't have to serve on the jury were relieved and not offended. Most of them left the court room with smug looks on their faces, like they'd gotten away with something. After the challenged people have left, more names are drawn at random to replace them and the process starts again and this continues until there are 12 people the lawyers are content with. 

My name didn't even get called, not once over the two days. I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I have a lot to do at work and a week away would be very annoying. On the other hand, I know so very little about the Canadian legal system (because there are no good TV shows about Canadian lawyers) and it would have been interesting to play a part in it. I'm fairly certain not everyone there felt like that. One woman gave an audible sigh of relief every time her name wasn't called.

During some of the waiting, I replayed this clip in my head and tried not to giggle out loud (funniest part at ~0:50). 


Kimm-my said...

Sounds like my experience... Except that I was picked and got to sit in the jury box and then got to go back to the jury room. Then I got to go home to wait until the next week for the trial to start... except that I got a call that night to say that the defendant had pleaded guilty and I wasn't needed anymore.

Ellie Fish said...

How could you, of all people, not have a connection to someone involved in the trial? You're related to, or know, or know someone related to, most of Cobourg.

Kimm-my said...

I don't know everyone... everyone knows me