Decorative Scales of Justice in the Courtroom

I was called for jury duty this summer.

After receiving the summons, my first thought was to contact the courthouse and ask to be excused from duty. I am the primary care provider in my house, and my kids have nowhere to stay while I’m gone.But then my wife’s schedule opened up so that she had the first part of that week off. I began to look forward to the experience.

Of course, I was still worried. A trial lasting 2 or 3 days would be perfect, but anything longer would force me to bring my kids to jury duty with me.They’d hate me for that. The kids, I mean. Making them sit in the back of the courtroom with their books and iTouch for 5 or 6 hours. On a summer day!

As the first day of jury duty approached, I settled upon my strategy. I would simply wait and see what happens.

Because there was no way I was going to be one of those whiners who stands up in front of a judge and attempts to make some lame excuse to get out of my civic responsibility.And my fear was that the judge would see being a stay-at-home dad as nothing more than a lame excuse.  One thing I’ve learned in all these years is that you never can tell what the reaction is going to be, but odds are it’s going to be a negative one.

So, I kept my mouth shut and listened to my fellow wannabe jurors (or dontwannabe jurors, in this case) raise their hands proudly when the judge asked if anyone felt they could not serve.

There was the lady with the bad neck who couldn’t sit in a chair for long periods of time. NOT EXCUSED.

There was the young man who said he couldn’t focus on the evidence because he was in the middle of packing up his house. When was he moving? Oh, next month some time. NOT EXCUSED.

There was the elderly gentleman who couldn’t hear anything unless he turned on his hearing aid. Could he turn his hearing aid on? Why, yes, he could. NOT EXCUSED.

Of the hundred potential jurors, none of them were being excused. I decided it was a good idea to just keep sitting quietly, not calling attention to my own excuse of being a stay-at-home dad.

After a short break, we heard a few specifics of the case, which involved a large insurance company. The judge asked if anyone had a conflict of interest with this company, the plaintiff, or the lawyers.

An arm shot up, and a man in his forties said, quite proudly, “Your honor, I don’t feel I can listen impartially to this case because I am a socialist and I despise all large corporations.” Wow. Here’s a guy, living in ultra-conservative Idaho, who had no qualms about proclaiming himself a socialist, while I was all worried about what people might say if I called attention to being a stay-at-home dad.

Of course, to some people, it might be preferable to be a socialist. You just never know.

Oh. The socialist? EXCUSED! Maybe he was dismissed for creativity. The guy definitely had a smile on his face as he left the courtroom. Come to think of it, so did the judge.

At this point, I just figured I would take my chances with the numbers. There were 99 of us left, and they only needed a dozen or so. Alas, my number was not picked, and the judge broke the happy news to us that we were done. Completely done, as no other trials were scheduled that week.

I never had a chance to test out my stay-at-home dadness on the jury duty system. Truth is, I didn’t really want to. A big part of me actually wanted to sit on a jury, if for no other reason than to enjoy the conversation of grownups for awhile instead of the bickering of small children.

The next time I get called, I still won’t tell them I’m a stay-at-home dad. No, if I want to get out of jury duty, I’ll just say I’m a socialist.