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By Sally Torbey

The jury duty juggle

Uploaded: Aug 16, 2015

Our household breathed a collective sigh of relief last Friday when, after a week of serving as an "on-call juror", our son was informed that his service was not needed at this time and he was exempt from jury duty for a year.

It all started last March. He received an important-appearing letter from the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara. Because he was away at college I got his permission to open it, and was surprised to find a juror summons. He had just turned 19. Neither of our other adult children had ever received a summons. I was summoned once a couple of decades ago but checked the breastfeeding-mother box and have not been summoned since. His dad was summoned a few times but many years ago. There was little interest in requiring the rest of the family to serve, why him?

Since our son is a full-time student at a university a day-long car ride away, and the summons specified a week in May in the middle of his term, I looked for the box to check for the full-time student exemption. No such box exists. I considered going to the courthouse. Then I heard my friend's saga. Her 19-year-old, who also attends an out-of-town college, received a summons last year. My friend drove to the courthouse in San Jose, but the best deal she could broker for him was being on-call for jury duty Christmas week. It was the only week he was home from college last year!

Because the juror summons has draconian threats to fine, imprison, (and banish from the kingdom), anyone who ignores it, and I am a rule follower, I chose the option of ONE postponement (bold capitals are theirs), and selected the week in August that our son would return from his summer study-abroad program, hoping that if he fell asleep in the courtroom the judge would find him unfit to serve due to a medical condition (jetlag). Our son was also due to start an internship that week. I decided against driving to San Jose to attempt to convince an unsympathetic clerk that our son was contributing crucial expertise to ground-breaking research. It would be a difficult sell when he's not even getting paid!

Thus began the waiting game. Starting Friday, he was required to check the website every evening after 5pm for the update for the next morning, as well as check it daily at 11am in case he was needed that same day. He was required to report for jury service at the courthouse with one hour's notice, and advised that since no parking is provided please take public transportation. This requirement is physically impossible for 99% of jurors given that even people that live in San Jose don't work in San Jose. The city has a job/housing imbalance. Public transportation to downtown San Jose from most areas in the county where people do work takes well over an hour.

For my son, this requirement meant remembering to check the website at precisely 11am each day. If summoned, he planned to (gently) drop whatever he was doing in the lab, race home on his bike, and pick up whatever car he hoped the other four drivers in the family had remembered to leave for him. With our communication issues, or lack thereof, I considered warning family members with a sign on the windshield: "Punishment for removing this car from the premises includes fines, imprisonment, and banishment from the kingdom". Our son would then drive himself to the San Jose courthouse and find a parking space. All in an hour.

Fortunately this plan never needed to be executed, although with only a year reprieve we should probably start planning now for next summer!