Today is a very special day. It’s my first day of jury duty! I know the romanticism of it may be fleeting in about three hours, but for now I’m eager to see how this process works. A white-haired man with a baseball cap and aviators is already mumbling to himself “It’s bullshit.” I can understand that approach. We all have other places to be and most people consider this civic duty to be more of an annoyance than anything else.
In my case, I am missing a breakfast/lunch shift at the restaurant where I can make $150 for the day plus I had to turn down a catering gig that would have been at least $120. But here I am trading my $250-$300 day for the measly $40 per day during in a temporary position as a juror. With this pay, I am making $5.70/hour for an 8-hour workday with an unpaid lunch. I’m pretty surprised with this daily rate considering the minimum wage in NY State is $7.25. What’s worse is that if your employer doesn’t pay for your jury service then you have to wait 4 to 6 weeks for a check from the government. For many of us, our service will be only 1-3 days, but it could last for 2 weeks or more depending on the length of the trial. I am curious if there is leeway for loan repayments during the month spent as a juror. Remember, I’m voicing my concern as child-less single-person, I can only imagine the financial strain for a family of 5 or even 3. It seems like an absurdly low rate for such an important job.
The administrator instructs us to fill out our standardized forms that ask for the juror’s occupation: “Everyone here has an occupation. This means whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, house-wife, house-husband, retired. Everyone here has an occupation.” If I wasn’t recently employed by a restaurant I wonder what they would consider my occupation to be. Blogger? Recent graduate? Aspiring Broadway dramaturg? Theater critic? Considering I’m not paid for yet for any of these occupations would they still be relevant to this questionnaire? Perhaps, it’s just one way to determine where I fit into society. It’s interesting that they included house-wife and house-husband since those “occupations” aren’t necessarily remunerated. I assume they want a good mix of skills and qualities on each jury, although I still found their insistence on everyone having an occupation a tough one to swallow.
I’ll circle back around to the beginning of this post where I said I was eager to experience the process. I still am. I can see how and why many are desperate to get out of it, but I do believe it’s a unique system of governance. I would hope that if my family, friends, or myself were ever brought to trial that others would treat the temp job as juror with respect and importance. Still waiting for my name to be called. I just hope my civic duty doesn’t break the bank…
Silent starting now (by law),