A couple of weeks ago on a Wednesday, I spent the first half of my day at jury duty. I typically dread Jury Duty. I understand the whole "being of service to your nation" thing - and I agree with that - but I hate watching everyone's time wasted during my "service." My project manager brain starts calculating the dollars-per-hour of productivity spent on waiting to participate in a trial. I just want to get them all busy doing something besides staring out into space.
In my typical juror experience, I watch:
- the judge waiting for a jury to be selected and have the trial
- the attorneys shuffling through papers (we wonder why fees are so high - look at the time wasted in a courtroom!)
- the potential jurors watching attorneys shuffle papers and a judge waiting for action
Why does productivity loss bother me so much? I hate seeing people not respecting other people's time. It is a pet peeve. Sure, we were serving our country so we are technically available all day, but there was no acknowledgement that we were there willingly to be of service and leaving our other responsibilities to be a good citizen. We weren't there to witness mass inefficiency and disorganization.
The experience I had in Dallas was FAR different than what I witnessed in other cities - and I think it was because I felt respected as a person with other responsibilities, and they appreciated my participation to help the judicial process. I knew this was true with jury duty, but I never FELT it in other cities.
How did they do this? It all started before I even entered a court room for selection.
- They cared enough to be sure that we had a decent place to park. Parking was connected to the building - no need to go outside and get cold. I found a space easily and got into the building quickly. A very pleasant experience. Sure it cost $3, but that is better than $10.
- The Juror Room was easy to find. As soon as I finished getting scanned for possessing dangerous objects, the Jury Room was literally right in front of me. I didn't need to go through a maze of elevators and hallways. Easy peasy. It was turning into an easy day.
- I could submit some basic information about me before coming to save time with juror selection. Dallas encourages jurors to complete surveys online - basically information about what they do, where they live, etc. These surveys provide the attorneys general information about the jurors and save them time from asking similar questions in a courtroom. I did mine at home the night before, but there were computers in the lobby available for the unprepared to get caught up. It was so convenient. And they pre-populated the form with as much information that they had on-file to make the process easier.
- I was greeted by a happy employee when I was scanned in - I felt welcome. Yes, a happy government employee was working there, joking around with the people coming in for duty. It made my day! I started jury duty with an smile. I didn't feel like my presence was an inconvenience; I felt like they wanted me there
- They respected the jurors enough to provide us with a clean place to wait. I went into a clean smelling, theater room that was freshly painted and in great shape. The seats were clean - I didn't see any stains. No trash, stains or odd smells. I felt like I was waiting in a large corporate meeting space.
- They didn't waste my time having me watching a boring video - I learned something. I thought the video was going to be some "feel good" video that hyped up why we were there for jury duty, how important our presence was in democracy, and all sorts of things that a cynic like me tends to see through and find to be a waste of time. But it wasn't. I learned what to expect in a trial if I were chosen - what the process would be during the trial and what to expect. I got more relaxed and actually felt like the people managing us cared about our experience. I started to care about how my day was going to go and was excited to be there. Yes, I was excited to be at jury duty to contribute to democracy.
- The judge managing the jurors cared enough to thank us and welcome us. After the video, the judge who managed the jury pool came forward and thanked us for coming and serving. A judge actually welcomed us. I felt valued because he took time out of his day to do this and he cared enough to talk to us about what we were doing and why it was so important.
- Then we were welcomed by the manager - he cared too. I felt like they were happy to have us there. I was now happy to be there too.
- We started our day quickly. I only did work on my iPad for 30 minutes. That's it. I was assigned to a court and guided on my way. So far everything was fast, easy and productive. People seemed to care that we were contributing - and I started to care too.