Jury Summons: The Importance of Doing Your Civic Duty

What I'll take away from my two days on jury duty in Union County Superior Court.

I may be one of the few people who actually was looking forward to serving on jury duty.

When I got the little slip in the mail saying I had to report to Union County Superior Court last week to serve as a petit juror, no, I wasn't thrilled.

First of all, I hate going to Elizabeth.

Second, taking the day off from Patch isn't as easy as it sounds.

But, regardless, I got up at the crack of dawn, drove to the courthouse and low and behold after a day of sitting around in the jury room, which by the way is the worst combination of an airport waiting area and one at motor vehicle, was selected to serve on a civil trial.

The two things I learned while on jury duty were, number one: they need a refrigerator in the jury room to keep your lunch cold. Number two: it is extremely different to be there as a juror and not as a reporter covering a trial. You're still nervous about some of the same things: am I going to the right place? I need to get there on time. Did I remember to turn my cell phone off? But sometimes as a journalist I wish I was a cop, or a lawyer or a judge; I wish I was someone who had the "right" to be wherever we were and the "authority" to ask the questions I so desperately wanted to ask.

Somehow my little clip on juror badge made me feel more powerful than any press pass ever could.

On our first day of actual service we got off to a rousing start when we witnessed a marriage ceremony in our courtroom. While the case was expected to go into the first week of May, the two parties in the case settled the afternoon of that first day. We were going home! 

But as I rode the elevator down 11 flights with my fellow jurors (one had affectionately named us The Dream Team), we all expressed a strange disappointment that it was over. We were interested in the case. We wanted to do our part in the judicial system. We wanted to serve our civic duty.

Next time you get that little slip of paper summoning you to the courthouse, whether it be here in Union County or down in Trenton, think about if you were a plantiff or a defendant. Wouldn't you want someone like yourself to be a juror in your case? Trial by jury is one of the most precious rights we have in America. Remember that next time you are called.

Maybe I'll see you there. Well, at least not for another three years....


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