Tuesday, September 1, 2009

In the pool

So here I am caught in a situation that is both unwelcome but absolutely necessary. I am writing today's blog from the basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal Courts Building, one of many structures that suffered tremendous flooding in this area four years ago. For a while many of the activities associated with the long arm of the law in New Orleans ceased to exist. While the Criminal Sheriff managed to hold onto all of the prisoners he housed in the nearby Orleans Parish Prison ("you down with O.P.P. "), much of the prosecution of criminals ground to a halt during the last half of 2005 and much of 2006. Eventually, though, the powers that be got most all of the Criminal District Courts Building restored and in working order. That meant that a full schedule of jury trials had to be reinstalled and the necessary jury pools organized to fill those juror positions. In Orleans Parish it used to be if one voted, one was almost always called to serve as a juror. However, because a large number of individuals from the less affluent sections of the city didn't vote, many defense attorneys were able to claim foul when it came to having a jury that was representative of the social and economic makeup of the city. The state agreed and so other methods are employed in determining who gets picked to serve on present-day juries. Today it is my turn. I have just listened to the indoctrination from Judge Laurie White of Section A, who thanked us all for attending to our civic duty of being part of the jury system for this entire month of September. Yet, while I recognize the need to serve, I am torn by the fact that this service comes at a great cost to me, my business and to those clients dependent upon me. The last time I served was pre-Katrina. It was 2002 as I recall and I managed to serve on three jury trials, none of which were as romantic as those depicted in the movies or on TV. Most of the trials involve defendants accused of robbery or burglary or drug dealing. Most are not capital cases, but some are. There is a possibility I could serve on a jury that will be sequestered for as long as three weeks, but the likelihood of that happening is very remote. I'll probably have to sit until 12 noon most days and wait for my name either to be called or not. So far, I have missed being called to serve on two juries. The likelihood I will be picked in the next hour looms large and that means that I may have to be on a jury until the late afternoon. While I appreciate it is a great privilege to serve, I really have mixed feelings about being away from work, clients and friends. Nonetheless, it is an opportunity for me to write on a day when I would shirk such good fortune. It is much better to keep me focused than staring at the bare walls and I thank goodness for my laptop. I only wish the imposition of forced duty were a little less harsh, but I am sure it will be a positive experience in the long run.

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