Like me, you’re eager to do your civic duty. You pay your maximum taxes every year, you stand docilely on the pavement the minute you see the flashing Red Hand, and you come to a full stop at each and every intersection so marked. And, you gladly and promptly fulfill what is arguably your most important civic duty – serving on a jury.
Most people don’t actually serve on a jury each and every time they are called, of course. The New York City court system makes this easy and painless, due to its cutting edge implementation of technology so that the prospective pool of jurors is matched exactly to the court’s needs. No more waiting for days on end in the jury waiting room! You know when you’re expected to serve, and you know 24 hours in advance if you’ll be needed so you can go on with daily life.
Was that my alarm? Ooooo, sorry. Time to wake up and go sit for days on end in the jury room.
Here are some tips to make sure you’ll get called for jury duty, and, once called, to make sure you are seated on a jury.
Be a Follower, Not a Leader
The number one tip for getting chosen to serve on a jury is to keep your trap shut! Stop using those big words! Don’t try to make friends and influence people! Act like you can barely use the key to your front door without assistance! Do you have a job? Make sure you don’t know much about it. When the judge or lawyer asks what you do for a living, you’re a shoo-in if you say “I press the big green button on my screen.” Even better is “I work.” If you say “I’m manage a team of 20 experts working full time on statistical correlations in investment decision patterns and how these impact the global economic climate” your boat is sunk. You’ll never get picked THAT way!
Ignorance is Bliss
Make sure you haven’t kept up with news feeds, newspapers, news on television, twitter, email, Facebook, podcasts or gossip from your neighbors. “Curious about current events? Not me!” is your watchword. Who’s the president? Don’t be too sure with your answer. Ever heard of Bernie Madoff? Sorry —doesn’t ring a bell.
Even worse would be if you actually know something about the court system itself. When they ask if you have ever been on a jury or involved with the court system, you should NEVER say “Your honor, my husband works as an employee of New York Supreme Court. I know WAY too much about what goes on there.” You’d be home by noon.
Specifically, never volunteer your own anecdotes or opinions. If the attorney asks “does anyone here know someone who’s been in an accident?” don’t raise your hand. Whatever you do, keep your life history to yourself. Don’t talk about your own opinions as though they are facts engraved in stone. Don’t raise your hand after every single question until the lawyers’ eyebrows creep up their foreheads and even the judge begins to look slightly miffed at the very sight of you.
If you have ignored this advice and you find yourself standing up and answering a question, for heaven’s sake, be soft spoken. Don’t be loud, don’t be strident. Don’t start adding unnecessary, unpunctuated, and inflammatory details such as “Your honor, when my cousin was in a car accident she had to have surgery on her knee and it was all the other driver’s fault but she never even got a good settlement and then she was on crutches for weeks after that and she couldn’t work and her car was totaled and she had to get disability for a while but the insurance company only gave her 3 thousand for the car but she bought it for 20 thousand only ten years ago so they ripped her off my aunt said so.” If you do that, they might think you are a live wire and you’d be gone.
You’ll never get on a jury if they can’t find you! Make sure you keep the authorities well informed of your current domestic address. Always fill out a “change of address” form when you move. That way, you’ll get all your flyers from Geico, all those catalogs of clothing companies who were founded before 1990, and your call for jury duty.
The first official document you’ll get is the prospective juror questionnaire. When you pull this out of your snail mailbox, you must fill in the answers correctly and quickly and send it back promptly. It is illegal to throw it in the trash and claim the post office lost it.
After you mail the questionnaire back, you’ll be waiting eagerly by your mailbox for about 6 months until the big day arrives: yes! It’s your first jury summons! You rip off those little cardboard borders to reveal the name of the court and the date. Jury service is mandatory, so you can’t just throw the summons in the trash and not show up. If you do that, I’ve heard that they call you again in a few months. If the next summons ALSO gets lost in the mail you will get an envelope with big red letters on it. That one, the red-letter envelope, is the one that really better never get lost in the mail or someone might come after you. That’s what I’ve heard, anyway.
Anyone can request one postponement for a variety of reasons. Only one per customer. If you request a postponement after the big red letter summons arrives, you can buy yourself a few more months. Again, that’s what I’ve heard so don’t quote me.
Eager Beavers Don’t Get Picked
Can’t wait to serve? One more hurdle lies in your way, and It’s the jury version of catch-22. The original Catch 22 involved active combat duty: if you don’t want to be on active combat duty, it means you are sane and the army wants you in combat. If you DO want active combat duty, it means you are crazy and they don’t want you. Well, it’s a little like that with the court system. If you keep asking “can I be on this jury? I really want to be on a jury!” the lawyers might think you are crazy. They don’t want crazy people on the jury! Sometimes, that’s the judge’s job.
To hone your technique further, be sure to try this interactive quiz.