A couple of weeks ago I got an important looking envelope from the city, with "Jury Duty Summons" emblazoned on the front. I'm supposed to report as a standby juror in the first week of January--when I'm 36 weeks pregnant.
Four weeks before the little girl is due.
Pregnancy in of itself isn't a good excuse to be excused, but at 9 months pregnant, would they still want me to report for duty?
I mean, I'm fortunate to have an uncomplicated pregnancy, and there seems to be no real risk of her arriving early, but what if she did decide to come that morning? Would I be in contempt of court if I was laid up in the hospital bed, laboring? (Yes, these are the things I worry about instead of, you know, worrying about the actual labor.)
And if she didn't come yet, I need water. Lots of water. I'm so dehydrated all the time because I swear my uterus is just hoarding water like a camel. And food. My own food, because whatever they have there in the cafeteria or vending machine is probably crap. Could I bring my own food and drink? I couldn't find anything on their website about food and drink, so I emailed and asked them all this.
It was so obvious the answer was mostly copied and pasted and repeated so often it became rote, but
- I am still expected to report for duty (unless they tell me otherwise when I call that one number the night before jury duty)
- If I do have a pregnancy emergency, I should call the jury duty office, who will transfer my call to whoever was in charge of potential jurors at the Criminal Court, who can then be notified of the reason of my non-appearance, and
- I can totally bring my own food and water, but I won't be able to eat in court.
Then I emailed a different person to request accommodations. Cook County has made it so easy to get help, compared to my last summonses in Nebraska.
Nebraska wanted an audiogram as proof of my deafness, and a letter from my audiologist outlining my accommodation requests--like closed captioning and a laptop for taking notes. Then I got excused so quickly I was kinda surprised by the speed of the response--apparently I was going to be too expensive as a prospective juror, which suited me just fine. I was too busy working two PT jobs and going to school full time, anyway, and couldn't afford to take time off.
Here, though--they actually have a special email just for deaf and HOH jurors. And a TTY number. And a regular phone number. And they didn't ask me for proof of my deafness--just filling out this form and emailing it in was sufficient. And they were super nice--they reminded me that I could apply for a delay in my jury duty service. If I did suddenly not need their services for that day because of pregnancy issues, I should just email or call them, and they'll take care of it.
Which brings me to another point--why am I not trying to get out of jury duty? I actually probably could get out of jury duty, which seems unfair to so many others who WANT to get out and have no legit reason to do so. (you can see the list of reasons here--skip down to section 10.2 and start reading from there).
Seriously--if you Google anything about jury duty in Cook County, you'll get tons of articles about jury duty excuses and advice on how to weasel out of this annoying civic duty. And there's a ton of people asking whether they'll get arrested if they do a no-show. (Dude--way to be an asshole.)
It is annoying. And inconvenient. It disrupts the flow of our life. And I don't blame people for trying to get out of it (just don't try to pull a no-show).
I have to serve at a really inconvenient time for my workplace because it's one of our busier weeks of the year, but as my boss said, "We'll persevere." Plus I'm one of the lucky ones who does get full pay for jury duty from my workplace. And I'm fortunate for a eventless pregnancy. And later on, I will have to seek jury duty exemptions because of childcare and breastfeeding.
It's just easier to do it now, get it over with, enjoy my uninterrupted reading time, and see what the process will be like. I'm especially curious about the voir dire process--especially at the criminal court.
- Will they take one look at my ginormous belly and send me home? (I look like I'm about to pop according to dozens of strangers on the street.)
- Will my upbringing with abusive parents get be struck? My PTSD and depression?
- My strong opinions about anything involving violence and abuse?
- My very strong opinions about harm to children (no doubt exacerbated by pregnancy hormones)?
Or will my general intellect get me struck? I'm trying to say that in a non-facetious way, but honestly, it sounds like people in general are so dumb. At least, that seems to be the common thread from others' jury duty experiences. Seriously, do people get all their news from the rag mags at the checkout counter or from Fox News/CNN? Compare that to my reading habits, where I inhale most news from the New York Times, Atlantic, and Al-Jazeera, and my friends share thought-provoking articles from other sites I don't frequent, like the BBC.
And if I don't know something, I will research it. That's why I'm a librarian. (If I do get selected and the trial goes into the next day, it will be SO HARD not to research whatever I learned during the first day of trial.)
That's the thing. I like to think. To learn. To ask questions. I'm glad I work in an academic environment, because I can absorb knowledge from others. But on the flip side, it's hard for me to wrap my head around people who are satisfied with poor quality information. It'll be hard for me not to throttle the dumb people in the jury when we're deliberating.
Anyway. If I do end up showing up for jury duty, and especially if I get chosen, I'll be blogging about it. Especially in relation to being very fuckin' pregnant. Will I have to go in? Will I get chosen? Will I lose my faith in humanity thanks to dumb people? Stay tuned in a couple of weeks.
And try not to get out of jury duty too quickly. If I can do it at 9 months pregnant, so can you.
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