Friday, April 1, 2011

Jury Duty in LA County; What to expect.

For those of you who have never reported for jury duty in LA county, I'll share a little about the experience so you can get an idea of what to expect. My jury duty was in the Pomona court house in Pomona, CA. I actually enjoy serving, it can be a bit boring; there is lots of waiting and waiting but it is an interresting experience.

Come early since you have to pass through the metal detectors to get into the courthouse and the line is very long. "Beach" attire is not allowed so dont show up in flip flops, shorts or a halter top. Jeans are ok and a suit and tie are not really necessary. Bring a book or something to read since there is alot of waiting. We were allowed to use our laptops, ipads or phones anywhere but the courtroom. Snacks or water are allowed but only in the hallway or away from the "carpeted area" but again, never inside the courtoom.

Every courthouse is different so your experience may vary.

When we finaly got into the court house we went up to the "Jury Room" which is a large lounge room with couches, tables etc kind of like a doctor's office. Everyone is asked to take a seat. Then the coordinators went over how to fill out our jury summons correctly as well as a short survey and questionaire that we were given. When that was over the coordinators began collecting the forms as we watched a short video on our civic duty as jurors.
After all the formalities, you may be called out in groups and sent to report to a specific courtroom. When you get there you wait out in the hallway till the clerk or the bailiff calls you in. They know you are there so dont knock or dont go in to let them know you are waiting...

Once we were called inside we are once again asked to take a seat. Then the judge talked a little about jury duty before he began calling people one by one. From this point on, people were called by their juror number not by their name. They call up to 18 people to fill the jury seats.

Once the jury seats were full they began a short "interview" process. Each juror is asked to answer simple questions such as City of residence, what do you do for a living, if you are a student, what are you studying, Marital status, number of children, What do the adults in your household do for a living, do you have any friends/family in law enforcement... Each prospective juror takes turns answering these questions (out loud in front of everyone). When they are all done the attorneys for either side may ask additional questions in order to decide which jurors to keep and which ones to excuse. They may ask questions related to the case such as "how do you feel about handguns" or "have you ever been the victim of an assault".

Basically, if they dont think you are suited for the case, they excuse you if they think you'll be a good fit they keep you on.

By the way, we were given two 15 min breaks and a 1-1/2 hour lunch. You are on your own for both. There is no "free lunch" and transportation is up to you too.  They will tell you what time to be back.

Those who are not selected are excused and go back to the jury room to be sent to another courtroom and begin the process again. Once the attorneys are happy with the set of jurors, they "accept the panel as it is" and everyone else is excused. Those who are selected receive further instructions and then, depending on the time, the trial may begin immediately.

If you are not selected by the end of the day, your service is considered complete. You can go home (after checking in at the jury room where they give you PROOF of service) and you dont have to serve again for at least a year. If you are selected you will have to stick around till the trial is over which could be anywhere from 3 days to who knows how long.

The hardest part of being selected (aside from the actual deliberating) at first, is not being allowed to speak to anyone, including other jurors, about the case. You arent allowed to speak about the case to your friends or family, to anyone out it the hallway or to each other. It isnt always like you see on TV but it is very interresting, you hear testimonies from witnesses and experts, see "evidence" etc. You end up learning quite a bit so if you get called make the best of it. Dont worry, it will be over soon.

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