Jury Duty? More Like Fury Duty
All of the people who I talk to on a regular basis are sick of hearing me complain about jury duty. And then I remembered that I have a blog! I can complain about jury duty on my blog!
Yes, yes, it is true, it has been an entire week since this happened, and I am still irritated!
My premise here is that even though you may have a right to a jury trial in certain situations, it is often rude to exercise that right. This is not the only right that falls into this category. There are a lot of things that you can say (freedom of speech) that it are better left unsaid. There are arms that you might bear but that you would be better off not bearing.
Based on my reading of the court calendar, most of the cases with jury trials are civil cases. Over the past few weeks of me reading the court calendar, there has only been one criminal jury case in San Diego County. Thus, everything that I’m writing in this post is about civil court.
In case you didn’t know, the only civil cases that qualify for a jury trial are those where you are asking for money. If you want someone to stop doing things, then it’s a judge trial. It’s only if you want money from the other party that you might have the option for a jury trial.
When I showed up for jury duty, they informed us that they were trying to pick a jury for a TWELVE DAY TRIAL. I do not get paid for jury duty. I do not have 12 days of vacation saved up. I would be out real and actual money if I was chosen to serve on that jury. While the court would excuse people in cases of extreme financial hardship, I would still be able to buy food and whatever even without 12 days of income. However, that does not change the fact that this is roughly 5% of my income for the entire year. Someone is asking someone else for money, and I was at risk of being caught in the crossfire and ending up being out 5% of my income for the year. Rude.
Sure, some of the people on a jury will be retired or government workers who get paid for jury duty, but some of them won’t. How much should people be asked to suffer so that someone can have a civil suit heard by a jury? Can the people on the jury offer to chip in some extra money to beef up the defendant’s best offer of a settlement so that the case will go away?
Based on my reading of the court calendar (which is a public record published on the court’s webpage), this was a case about someone who bought a Jaguar and had a warranty claim. However, in California we have really strong consumer protection laws – if you follow the rules. If the buyer of this car had followed the checklist in the Tanner Consumer Protection Act, then this probably would not have been headed to a jury trial. The Tanner Act is pretty clear about car warranty claims. You could take care of this with a judge-trial without taking up too much time.
Please note that I am developing very strong opinions about the Tanner Consumer Protection Act and the Song-Beverly Consumer Warranty Act. It is my firmly-held and sincere belief that someone with a car warranty complaint absolutely must pursue it via the protections of the Tanner Consumer Protection Act. I would never find for someone who was making a claim under only the Song-Beverly Act.
The only automatic excuses for avoiding this jury were (1) extreme financial hardship, (2) having a pre-paid and non-refundable vacation planned (!!!), (3) being a primary caretaker and unable to hire a replacement caretaker, and (4) having a non-reschedulable medical appointment. You know what else made this 12-day trial so rude? It included both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. But apparently that was not grounds for being excused. Also rude.
At this point I will point out that nowhere in the Constitution does it say that a jury has to be a “jury of your peers.” It just says that the jury needs to be impartial. Do you think that I would be impartial on a case where the lawyer for the plaintiff is being paid on contingency. That would be, “NO!” If I am not getting paid, then the lawyer is not getting paid, either. There is no reason that these civil cases need to be heard by arbitrary members of the general public. This is especially true if any money that would be awarded is going to be paid by an insurance company. Have a judge trial! Start using professional jurors! Or a mix of professional jurors and people who don’t need to be at work!
Or limit civil jury trials to one day! Jury duty starts at 8am. Instead of showing us some sort of video about how important our civic duty is, start with a speed round of voir dire (8am - 9am). Plaintiff presents from 9am - noon. Have a break for lunch. Defense gets to present from 1pm - 4pm. Deliberate until 5pm. Everyone goes home. BOOM! Done! If it’s something really complex, let it have two days. People would be much more willing to do jury duty if it only lasted 1-2 days.
Do note that a car warranty case most definitely could fit within that timeframe, as the Tanner Consumer Protection Act is very clear about what must be done.
Some of the cases that are slated to come up for jury trials are pretty wild. You should read about the case of the French bulldog that died while under the care of a veterinarian. Sad, sure, but worth disrupting the lives of a dozen people for many days?
Fortunately for me, the case with the 12-day trial decided mid-morning that they did not need a jury after all, so they sent us all home. I’m also pleased to report that I do not seem to have caught any respiratory viruses hanging out in a crowded room with a bunch of sniffling and coughing members of the general public.