How To: Jury Duty

Last Monday I reported to the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center for jury duty. I have lived in Philadelphia no longer than eighteen months, but my number was up. Having had to report once while living in Washington DC, only to be released shortly after lunch, I had an idea of what to expect.

Credit: Supreme Court of the State of New York

No later than the night prior to reporting to jury duty, check the travel time from your place of residence to the exact address where you are to report. Budget an extra twenty minutes to get there, because you should be in the exact room the summons calls out by the exact time it calls out. Just do it and relieve yourself the stress and anxiety of the potential shame of being late. You will likely have to scan your summons once you arrive, thus you will not likely be called out for selection beforehand; play it safe and be in the assigned room five minutes prior to when you are actually required to report.

Regardless of whether or not the summons has directions to bring the actual summons with you, just bring it with you. When I reached the security line, I was told to have my document handy. The young lady behind me forgot hers and consequently had to report to a desk prior to preceding through the line. With chaotic lines only rivaled by airport security, I would advise to make it as easy on yourself as possible.

While jury duty is not necessarily a place to make a sartorial statement, one should dress appropriately, as stated on the summons. I do not know that all people who reported last Monday received the same summons as I did. I am also sure that not everyone was dressed appropriately. Graphic tees (“champagne is my water”, “champagne o’clock”, “champagne s’il vous plait” CAN WE PLEASE COOL IT ON THE CHAMPAGNE REFERENCES?), athleisure, wet hair, shorts, distressed denim. I am calling these inappropriate. Ladies and gents, we should agree that we should dress up no less than what we would wear to a job interview (in a conservative sector) to jury duty. Along with actually showing up, it is our patriotic duty to show some respect.

I think it is also respectful to power down your phone while in the building. Why not take advantage of disconnecting? Most employers support their employees doing their civil service, so even the excuse of checking work email should be thrown out for the day. In lieu of spending the day on your electronic devices, I would suggest bringing a book with you. When waiting in a courtroom, pulling out a book is much more respectful than a phone or tablet and it is much easier to stash away than it is to check the volume, power off, and tuck in your purse or pocket.

I would suggest that along with checking the commute, pick a place nearby to get lunch ahead of time. Lunch times may be an hour to an hour and a half long. Do not waste time walking around looking for a lunch place. When I was serving in DC and in Philadelphia, I chose places that offered a full menu at the bar. This expedited my lunch and allowed me to stop at a Starbucks on the way back to the jury duty. On that note, do not drink a ton of liquids. The restrooms were foul at the courthouse. I decided to hold it until lunch, and just used the restroom at the restaurant.

My last bit of advice would be to wear your juror’s badge during lunch and other breaks. A lovely young gentleman standing in front of me at Starbucks insisted in paying for my large latte small coffee (on Whole30 and did not want to have to use the restroom by the end of the day) as I was doing my civil duty for the day.

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