Friday, April 13, 2012
Flippin' jury duty. I got a summons that arrived the day after the deadline it listed to enroll online. That was annoying, but the online sign-up actually was still open. However, I can't serve. I work adjunct hourly jobs where if I miss work, I don't get paid and I might even have to pay a substitute out of my own pocket.
They have a provision for that; you can be excused for financial hardship. Only, you have to GO in person to ask the judge. So, no matter what, you have to lose at least half a day of work.
So, they assigned me a court and told me I had to appear Monday the 16th at 1:30. They don't provide parking; they tell you to use public transportation, although the public transportation doesn't go to the courthouse. It's an hour bus ride followed by about a 2-mile walk. Luckily, I live close enough to ride my bike, though it will still take an hour.
So I make arrangements. I just accept that on Monday, I'll miss my afternoon class and part of my evening shift, and I get people to cover for me. That's at least $120-- my grocery budget for a month.
Then yesterday, I get an e-mail saying that even though they said I was to report at 1:30, now they're not sure what time it will be and I MUST call them at exactly 11:00 on Monday to find out. I might have to somehow get there by noon, or it might be 4:00. In other words, I I might be sitting at home twiddling my thumbs when I could have been teaching my class, or, even if I'm excused, I might end up missing all of my evening shift.
And now, on Thursday afternoon, leaving one business day before the appearance, I get an e-mail saying I have to be there at 9:00 am instead of 1:30, and I might have to stay until 5:00.
WTF?!??? Okay, this sucks enough for me. I'm probably going to get out of there by noon, which means I could have made it to both jobs and gotten paid, but I already arranged for subs who are counting on that time. At least I'll probably get part of my second shift, so I'll only lose 3/4 of my grocery budget for the month.
But what about people who work in the morning, as 90% of people do? ONE DAY is not enough notice to get leave from a regular job, much less to get coverage if you're a contract worker or temp (as more than 30% of all American workers are now). And if you own/operate your own small business, you're totally screwed. And what about people with children? One working day is not enough time to change arrangements with a sitter-- they'll have to pay for a whole day when they were expecting to pay for half, and probably pay extra for the late change, assuming the sitter is even available.
And what about the poor plaintiff? This is civil court, somebody suing somebody. If I don't get off and I actually have to serve a week and lose 30% of my month's income, how can I NOT be p***ed at the moron who brought the lawsuit? How can I not sit there thinking, "Would you lawyers just GET TO THE POINT? The one who talks the longest is gonna LOSE, 'cuz I can't afford to BE here. Can I sue YOU for wastin' my time?"
This whole system is just wrong. It shouldn't cost people money to serve on a jury. If they're going to have an online system to qualify the pool, they should have an online system to get excused. And they certainly shouldn't be allowed to make changes without reasonable notice.
I guess it's really just incredibly outdated. It assumes that everyone works a nice full-time job for a nice, big employer who will pay their salary while they serve. But the world has changed. Between independent contractors and adjuncts, temps, and small business owners, over a third of us don't have a regular salary or an employer, period. And for everyone else, there's no actual law requiring employers to pay. They always just did it because it's the decent thing to do-- but big companies aren't into "decent" anymore, and folks can't protest because they're too afraid of losing their lousy job. Supposedly they can't fire you for not being there, but they sure can save up all the work, refuse to move your deadline, and make you work double when you get back, and then fire you for not doing it well.
So, basically, the only people who can serve without financial loss or job stress are retired people-- although you're exempt after 70, so that's a small group-- and the completely unemployed. How can you have a decent justice system when your juries are made up of geezers, the jobless (and only the ones who don't even have a little part-time job), or people like me who are completely freaked out the whole time because they're losing the rent money with every second that ticks by? It sure explains some of the totally insane verdicts.
Jeez, I sure hope I never get arrested or sued.
Oh, by the way, they do "compensate" jurors. You get six dollars, paid 45 days after you serve. Yay.