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My Week At Jury Duty!

by J. Money on Monday, October 22, 2012

giant gavel statue

Whelp, after what I thought was gonna be a quick “in and out” over at the courthouse last week, my adventures of jury duty turned out to be a week-long affair! I guess attorneys these days sure like their mohawks as I didn’t scare them one bit! Haha… way to fail, little spikeys ;)

But in all honesty, I actually had a REALLY good time there despite all my bitching and moaning about it lately. There were certainly times where I wanted to gouge my eyes out just because all 8 lawyers or whatever kept repeating the EXACT same thing over and over again (I can’t talk about the case in details, of course, but let’s just say there were like 5 parties involved in a bad car crash and everyone had like 2 lawyers each), but overall it was well worth the experience. I’d been called to jury duty plenty of times before – including a time in NYC where it was like HELL – but this was my first *pleasurable* time actually ON a case and asked to determine the fate of all people. It was pretty surreal. I only had one major gripe about the whole process, which I’ll be sure to tell you about in a bit.

Outside of all the fun and interesting parts of doing your civic duties though – cuz that’s really what it is, helping out your fellow citizens in a time they need you the most! – there were quite a bit of financial tidbits thrown into the mix as well. Mostly random observations I made as time went on all week, but nonetheless still relating to money. Which is the point of me blabbering on about this today – it really does relate to it! ;)

Here were some of the financial things I found interesting:

  • For each day you serve, you get paid $15. With a few bucks more if you stay super late, and up to $50 or $60 (per day) if you end up getting asked to stay more than a week. Which is a TON better than $15/day of course. (All counties and states differ fyi)
  • The money you get is considered a “reimbursement of expenses” NOT pay. Which means you don’t have to report the income as “income” because it wasn’t income – it was money to pay you for your expenses incurred such as gas, food, parking, etc etc. Though of course everyone there just considered it free money :)
  • You had the option of donating the money to a local cause instead of keeping it. Which, as you know, I had to say “yes” to because it’s how I run my charitable side of my life ;) I don’t give $XXX money every month, or support a main cause or anything, I just say yes to anyone who asks me to help support THEIRS. It’s a fun way for me to give and experience new organizations.
  • I ended up donating $60 bucks in the end – instead of the $15 I was originally thinking! Haha… not that I would have changed my mind, but still – a $15 donation is much different than a $60 one ;) It felt good though for sure.
  • All the food joints at the courthouse only accepted CASH. Which is fine cuz my rule is to ALWAYS have some on you, but it was def. a mess for some other people. Luckily/brilliantly, the fine folks there placed an ATM conveniently next to these food shops ;) Which of course they’re getting money from every time people pull out this cash they need to use for eating!
  • They even had a make-shift booth set up in a next door office room for us jurors :) I don’t know how the guy got permission to do it (maybe he shares profits with them?) but either way it was AWESOME. Especially as most of us was running late to get there on time the first day, and we were starving for snacks and/or coffee. So I gladly handed him my $2.37 for a danish and hazelnut brew. A true hustler!
  • One of the fellow jurors on my case was so frugal he never brought lunch! I don’t know how he sustained his appetite the whole time (he was also in the middle of cutting out beer & smokes which used to cost him $400 a month!), but the first day I felt bad and gave him one of my pb&j sandwiches. A cool way to meet a new friend for sure :) Later I came to realize he may be a bit more poor than frugal really – I wasn’t too sure – but either way he ended up being one of my favorite people there. And actually looked like a modern day Pythagoras with long gray beard and all! Haha… Pretty funny the people you end up crossing in life…
  • The metal detectors at the court house SUCKED. I literally went through them once with a pocket full of change without out any bells or sirens going off whatsoever. That’s pretty bad. Though it was interesting they made you turn on your laptops and cell phones once through to make sure they indeed worked and you weren’t  hiding anything – so at least that’s good.

And then here were some other observations I found interesting in general:

  • I NEVER want to be the person who has to wrangle up all the potential jurors – Everyone HATES showing up and they give the court employees such horrible times! I counted at least 4 people who either back-talked, or became super bitchy to everyone around them because they thought they were too good to be there… the first 15  mins with this group of random assorted people sucks as no one’s happy :(
  • Then after a bit, you really DO gain an appreciation for how the judicial system works. They show you this video to explain everything, and then talk about how important you are to these citizen’s cases, and you realize that your minor inconvenience doesn’t even COMPARE to some of the stuff these people are going through :( It really does help put things in perspective.
  • The juror lounge also had a cool computer section going on! For anyone wanting/needing to use them while waiting to be called into the selection process – it was a nice surprise, especially considering how my last jaunt (the NYC one) went when we were all crammed into a room w/ nothing at all to do than read and/or sit there in silence. Man that blew…
  • A lot of people still use AOL :) I can’t tell you how many times I heard those annoying sounds coming from the computers when someone was logging on or whatever – who knew they were still even around?? Oh, and also? People found a way to play World of Warcraft on them too, haha…
  • There were also old telephone banks in the back – way before the days of cell phones. Brought back good memories of calling collect as a kid ;)
  • I met one of the employees of ThinkGeek.com – A cool site if you’ve never been there before :) He showed us some of the crazy stuff they sell on it like playable guitar shirts and a life-size replica of the sword throne from Game of Thrones! Haha…which will only cost you a mere $29,999 ;) It was a fun way to pass the time in between things.

As far as our baby and my wife’s part-time job we were concerned about the whole time? Well, that one was solved by Mrs BudgetsAreSexy staying at home and watching him while working during his barely-existent nap times :) Which her work so graciously allowed her to do as we had NO ONE else who could babysit while both away. So it really worked out in the end. Though I am stuck with hundreds and hundreds (literally) of email I’m still playing catch up with. But that’s alright – I’d much rather be in this position than those tied up in legal battles, that’s for sure!

A great experience overall. Except for maybe that end part I alluded to earlier in this post ;( After all four days there, Monday – Thursday until 5pm every single day, in the end I come to find out that I was an “alternate!!!!!” Which meant that I had absolutely NO SAY in the final decisions of the case, and had to leave the room before my fellow jurors went to deliberate :( What a let down… It make sense why they don’t tell you this BEFORE you start the case – cuz they want you alert and paying attention in case one of the other jurors fall sick or have to leave for whatever reason – but still. All that time and energy spent there the whole week just washed away as if you were never needed. It was pretty disappointing :( Though on the plus side, I later found out that they had ruled EXACTLY like I would have done anyways, so in the end justice was still served in my opinion. Which is nice :)

So that was my week! Life put on hold to serve my fellow citizens, but overall a new experience I can take with me for years and years to come :) I’d totally do it over again if I could, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be called up to do so again as soon as the time limit expires – I’m ALWAYS getting asked to come in! And this time I’ll be able to plan a lot better knowing my ‘hawk doesn’t automatically disqualify me for the race ;) I guess it’s becoming more normal!

What did you all get into last week? Anything juicy in your life or money? What did I miss?

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Photo credit: Sam Howzit


{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Savvy Scot October 22, 2012 at 5:34 am

That sounds like a great experience! Do you get to claim back loss of earnings? I know we do in the UK. Good for you donating the cash,

I had a busy and exciting week too… I got to travel first class to Brussels and stay in 5 star hotels with my work :) – Have a good week

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2 Edward Antrobus October 22, 2012 at 6:56 am

I never understood why so many people try so hard to get out of jury duty. You always hear about people who are willing to lie and claim prejudices they don’t have just to get excused.

Did you have trouble keeping track with your A.D.D.? That’s the problem I would expect to have if I ever got called for jury duty. Back in college, the only classes I managed to pay attention to the entire time were the ones where I was frantically trying to keep up with all the copying of notes from the board!

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3 Stephanie October 22, 2012 at 8:35 am

Hey, today’s post prompted me to check my employer’s policy regarding jury duty. Turns out an advantage of working for county government, in the courthouse where the Court of Common Pleas is located, is that they are VERY understanding about jury duty. If an employee is a resident of this county and get called to jury duty, they can get their full regular pay by waiving their jury fees. If the employee resides outside the county (as I do), they can get their full regular pay by remitting whatever jury fees the other court pays them to this county. Pretty nifty!

So I’m glad to know that potentially being called to jury duty wouldn’t hurt me financially… But I don’t know if I could handle holding someone’s fate in my hands! I seem to have most of my obsessive-compulsive problems under control at the moment, but I have been known to stand in front of a vending machine for 20 minutes attempting to make the “right” choice, as if such a thing exists. Can you imagine me deliberating on a jury? I’d probably attempt to “abstain… courteously” a la New York in “1776″ when I can’t decide whose side to choose. ;-)

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4 J. Money October 22, 2012 at 10:28 am

@Savvy Scot – Woahh I WISH I got to claim back loss earnings! That would be awesome, but unfortunately we do not get that here :( Glad you had a nice trip last week – that sounds amazing!

@Edward Antrobus – Haha… there were indeed times my brain wandered about (like when I started thinking about blog or baby stuff), but for the most part I was pretty impressed with myself in the focus arena :) 80% of the time it was all interesting stuff, it was just when the repetition kept going and going and going where I found myself zoning out… great question though.

@Stephanie – HAH! A “right” choice – I totally know that feeling ;) I get obsessive compulsive about stupid details in things but luckily not in stuff that’s not written or typed down, which is weird… I’m much more casual and “normal” face-to-face or in conversation. But with written things? I’m a mess… Glad to hear you’d be okay financially though in a Jury Duty scenario over there! That could be a big blessing down the road! :)

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5 Brian October 22, 2012 at 10:54 am

Jury Duty here is not so bad. I was called literally the day after I graduate high school, so I was actually pretty excited to serve on a jury. In the end I got dismissed (last one too) because the defense lawyer recognized my last name and remembered that my dad had coached his son in little league baseball (the better part of a decade ago) and didn’t think he nor I could get over that bias. I know this because he pulled me aside when I was dismissed and told me this and how great my dad was as a coach because he let his son actually play (his son was one of those really awkward kids who wasn’t very athletic).

It was a fun experience but I wished I had gotten to be on the Jury.

On an unrelated note, Since you work at home, have you considered working the polls on election day? It is pretty cool experience too if you are looking to try something new!

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6 Budget & the Beach October 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

Glad you had a decent experience. I’ve considered myself fortunate so far in that I’ve gotten the notice, but after my call-ins I never had to go down to the courthouse. For me it would be really bad because I’m freelance, and 15/day would not cut it as far as income.

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7 KM October 22, 2012 at 11:08 am

I finally had to report to jury duty this past year. I found out my employer pays for unlimited jury duty days, but I have to give back the measly “pay” to my company. In CA, potential jurors can actually get excused from jury duty if they can prove they stay at home and take care of a baby/young child. Not sure if your state has that rule, but it’s possible you *may* have been able to get excused.

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8 Melissa@LittleHouseintheValley October 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

I can’t believe so many people still use AOL, maybe because I have bad memories of using it in the ’90s. :)

Was your case one where you were just determining a settlement? I would hate to be on a murder case.

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9 Angella October 22, 2012 at 12:19 pm

I’ve always wanted jury duty, but have never been summoned. Everyone else I know has already experienced it. Also, my boss still uses AOL for our work email, it drives me insane. I set him up a gmail account years ago and he won’t touch it. I’m determined to make him ‘see the light’…although it’s been 8 years now, he may be hopeless.

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10 Samantha October 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm

I was on Jury Duty earlier this year… It was a homicide case. I learned a lot but it was certainly stressful, to say the least. Somedays I came home and just cried. The $20/day didn’t cover therapy sessions, haha.

But anyway… you are allowed to speak about the details of the case now that its over. Just FYI. And thank goodness, because I needed to talk to someone about the case afterwards or I would have gone crazy. Some jurors even write books!

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11 Veronica @ Pelican on Money October 22, 2012 at 12:39 pm

I was called to jury duty in a critical time once, when going for over a week would impair my ability to pay bills. I didn’t want to use this as an excuse, because I believe in serving your fellow citizens. The whole experience ended on day 1. We went in, signed in, listened to a guy explaining a few things and then waited for.. oh I dunno… 5 hours. Then the guy comes back out and says we’re not needed. “I guess they had plenty of jurors upstairs today, you’re going home.” Disappointed? A bit. Glad I didn’t have to struggle to pay my bills – very much so! Before going there I also yelped the cafeteria downstairs and supposedly the food there sucks.

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12 Philip October 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm

A couple months ago I had jury duty and got picked to serve on the jury, took Tuesday-Thursday. The donation if you sign that away only counts for the first day of $6 then you get $15 the rest of the days that they will send you anyway. Turns out my company will pay you for your time there, just send the check to the company when you get it, so no bonus cash for me.

It really was interesting to see what goes on but in the end I felt that it is kinda sorry that a group of 12 of us that have no clue on precedence or anything else ended up deciding on a case and awarding a bit over a million dollars… just crazy!

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13 Kevin @ Thousandaire.com October 22, 2012 at 4:49 pm

You should have taken the money and then used that money to donate to that exact same cause on your own. Then you could have written off the donation on your taxes.

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14 eemusings October 22, 2012 at 8:05 pm

My experience with jury duty is that court is a wholly depressing place (which I already knew). Nobody wants to be there. I nearly got drafted into a four week fraud trial, which I simply couldn’t do as I was about to start a new job (and had to make my case direct to the judge). Every single person called up before me did the same. Pretty sure the jury wound up – as juries do – being full of unemployed people.

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15 J. Money October 22, 2012 at 8:39 pm

It’s fun hearing all your stories so far :) I guess a lot of you have gone through cases too!

@Brian – Oooh that WOULD be fun! If someone around me went with I’d totally do it :) I’m not so good on going after it alone w/out any motivation, haha… Especially since I’m so backed up with work now that I’m a stay-at-home dad two days a week :( Great idea though! And I hope you get on another jury soon then too :)
@Budget & the Beach – Yeah, as a freelancer you pretty much get screwed. Luckily most of my money comes from advertising which runs whether I’m in front of a computer or not, but it still backs up your entire week that’s for sure… Maybe one day when you’re swimming in millions you’ll be ready to give it a shot :)
@KM – Nice! Awesome employer :) I’m sure there was a slight chance I could have gotten off on that reasoning too, but since I already pushed it back twice in the past year, I figured it was time to just suck it up and fulfill my duty. And I’m really glad I did :)
@Melissa@LittleHouseintheValley – Oh man, if it were a murder case I woulda been STUCK there forever! And this post would have been a lot different, haha… but nah – it was determining who was negligent in a major car accident, and then who was owed what amount. It just took forever ‘cuz ther were so many parties involved.
@Angella – Hah! I’m surprised the amount of spam that AOL probably lets through hasn’t deterred him yet – he’s pretty stuck in his ways! :) (And crazy you’ve never been called to jury duty yet – you should swap with me some time, I get called every 3 years! Even when I move states!)
@Samantha – Oh wow, I’m sorry to hear that :( I can’t even imagine what that’s like to go through – I hope you don’t have anything nearly as crazy if/when you ever get called up again! And good to know about jury talking and stuff too – I guess my brain is still in “secret” mode since it was so engrained in us throughout the entire process :)
@Veronica @ Pelican on Money – Haha, well that’s good! It’s def. hard when you DO want to server – for a set amount of time even – but you just never know how long any of the cases can go for. Not being able to pay the bills is a BIG one too!
@Philip – Woahhhh a million dollars? That’s a lot! But it’s totally true – your average citizen won’t know anything about the law and precedence or any of that stuff, but those are the people tha are determining a lot! At least the system seems to be working for the most part though, at least on the surface :) And now you have a cool story to tell!
@Kevin @ Thousandaire.com – Hah! Good thinking actually, though it turns out I can still write it off as they gave me a receipt that allows for it :) So I still win – yay!
@eemusings – That def. blows. But at the same time 4 weeks is an INCREDIBLY long chunk to pause your life on, not many people can do that and not suffer any consequences. Guess it’s just the way the system works though :(

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16 Bobbi October 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm

I have you all beat. I had jury duty for the month of April, every tues and thurs for the entire month. That is showing up everyday until they either call you into a potential pool or send you home. Even if you make it onto a jury for several days you still have to finish all of your days. Welcome to Orleans parish, New Orleans. When my friend told me about it I did not believe her. Who can handle this burden? I was fortunate that my employer paid for jury duty but as I work for an out do state employer I know they were not thinking a month of jury duty. Basically it was lost month of work for my employer as they could not schedule anything important for me not knowing if I might make it on a case any day. Since then due to the overwhelming complaints they have lowered it from a month to two weeks. I am free from criminal jury duty for two years now. I can still be called for civil or federal duty tin the meantime and they do some ridiculous two week periods also. I never made it all the way onto a case, though I was fascinated by the process.

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17 Jen October 23, 2012 at 1:47 pm

Ah, jury duty. I always like to hear these stories because I’m on the opposite end. I am a court reporter. I take down every word that those 8 lawyers, and everyone else, say in the courtroom. SOOO many jurors come through my courtroom on a regular basis, but I’m, obviously, forbidden to speak to them….that whole “avoid any inference of impropriety” thing. :( I’m glad your experience was mostly enjoyable!

Just a little FYI note on the alternate juror status….every state is different with how they handle alternate jurors. I’ve worked in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. I can’t remember if Virginia tells the alternate that they’re an alternate beforehand, but I do know that North Carolina and Pennsylvania do. Actually, here in NC, they specifically ASK the juror before they’re chosen if they’re okay with being an alternate. The Judge tells them that they’re being considered as an alternate juror. Then they explain the purpose of an alternate, in which I’ve heard an alternate referred to by the Judge as “the sixth man on the basketball team,” “an insurance policy,” and even “a spare tire”! HA! (It always generates laughter in the courtroom.) I’ve actually had jurors tell the Judge that they’re not okay with being an alternate and they’ve been excused.

I imagine being an alternate is frustrating, but at the same time, I’ve had so many cases use them and need them that it’s vital to the process. Some trials last for weeks on end, even months. Can you imagine all the time and effort put into that trial only to have a juror get sick right near the end and not having an alternate to replace them? The entire trial is then a mistrial and the participants have to start all over again with a new jury.

I used to have a Judge that said that jury duty was one of the most important civic duties we have, and it is. I know it’s frustrating at times, but to J$ and anyone else on here who has served, thank you for your service! It’s such an important part of our justice system.

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18 J. Money October 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

@Bobbi – Whaaat??? No way – that’s crazy! Not only for all 8+ days of showing up, but the “not knowing” what to expect or plan in the future! Wow…. I will never ever complain again, haha… that’s rough. Awesome your work was cool with it!!

@Jen – Awww, thanks so much for sharing your experience/thoughts with us!! Totally solidified my excitement for the whole thing! :) I agree with that judge more than I ever have before – jurors are super important! And although our trial was only 4 days long, even having THEM do it all over again would be a nightmare, so I guess being an alternate is just 1 piece to the puzzle – even though we do tend to feel un-helpful ;) So cool to hear from someone who works in the courtrooms – THANK YOU SO MUCH for commenting!

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19 Rebecca February 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm

“because they thought they were too good to be there”. REALLY???? That is a really self important, judgmental and insensitive thing to say. I don’t think you get what a huge financial hardship jury duty actually is for some people. Jury duty can literally bankrupt a small business owner. My husband just got summoned. If he’s stuck in jury duty there is NO income coming into the business because he is the only licensed professional that can do his job in our business. His time is worth thousands of dollars a week – dollars that pay all the business bills, our employees, and are the only source of income in our family. I’m sorry, but $10 a day and the glow of civic duty won’t pay the bills. Perhaps people are cranky about being there because they are literally worried about how they will put food on the table and keep the doors to their business open, wondering if they should lay off their employees, and just generally how they will survive with zero income coming in for an undisclosed period of time. Show a little sensitivity next time.

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20 J. Money February 28, 2014 at 7:56 am

I’m sorry it came off that way, I actually do agree with you. My issues is with the way a few of these people were *treating* those around them. There’s the professional way to deal with a situation, and then there’s the disrespectful – “let’s cause a scene and get an attitude up in here” route making it even worse for everyone involved. Particularly the employees just doing their job.

I’d be just as frustrated and nervous as your husband too (and in fact, I was because I’m a small business owner and fully self-employed too – pretty much being the *only* one bringing money to support my family with a baby), but I’d imagine he’d handle it a lot more respectfully than getting into someone’s face and causing a scene (which hurts your chances of a positive resolution even more).

I can’t remember the details, and I believe it varies state by state or county by county, but I do hope your husband can work something out so there’s no financial hardship for you guys. That’s scary :( I know there were people in our group which were allowed to leave under “financial hardship” so maybe it’ll work out for you guys?

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