More stupid adventures of Maynard, culminating in a stupid question
This week I was on call for California jury service. The short week has come to an end, and my number did not come up. I am a free man.
I have mixed feelings about the process. On one hand, I acknowledge my obligation to God and country. People have been called to go to war and die on foreign battlefields. Surely it’s not too much to ask me to go downtown and sit on a jury.
On the other hand, as a professional tech guy (that’s what I am!), I compulsively seek to fit the right tool to the right job. Clearly, some people are righter for jury service than others. Some people are more replaceable, or more available. Some people are “people people”, adept at listening to human testimony and sorting it out, and then discussing it. Others are temperamentally suited to work alone on mechanical tasks. Some people work days, some people work nights.
The bureaucracy makes a few petty acknowledgments that not all people are equally suited. I think you can get off if you’re the caretaker of an infirm relative. On the other hand, my veterinarian told me how she was called away to four days of jury service, which she spent in a waiting room while the lawyers argued with the judge, and the whole thing was finally canceled and everyone sent home. She owns her business and is the only resident doctor, so she had to flail for a quick substitute, and as a result the pet hospital was closed for three days. That’s just not right.
If we were of a mind to — and I’m not! — we could now enter into a long discussion of anecdotal horror stories, alternating with recommendations on how not to get picked. Everybody’s got a favorite notion of what to say, how to act, how to dress, and even how to smell. This is all fun and interesting, but I don’t think there’s a single winning formula. (I had a notion of going downtown wearing my tinfoil hat. Upon arrival, I’d sit in the waiting area reading Mein Kampf, giggling loudly.) But realistically, these ideas are more amusing in theory than in practice.
Okay, here’s one for the books. In my web search, I did find this disgruntled letter from a prospective juror.
Apparently you morons didn't understand me the first time. I CANNOT take time off from work. I'm not putting my family's well-being at stake to participate in this crap. I don't believe in our "justice" system and I don't want to have a goddam thing to do with it. Jury duty is a complete waste of my time. I would rather count the wrinkles on my dog's balls than sit on a jury. Get it through your thick skulls. Leave me the F__K alone.
Do not mock Caesar, for Caesar is a jealous god. This guy ended up not only serving, but apologizing to the judge to avoid being held in contempt of court. So, all in all, one must be cautious.
Anyway, as I said, I do recognize my obligations, but there are various reasons — no point in listing details — why I think I’m not the best tool for this job. So I’d just as soon the State pass me by. I requested a reschedule for Thanksgiving week, knowing it was a short week, and speculating that this might improve my odds. Maybe the judges are all on vacation, playing golf or visiting houses of ill repute in Bangkok. By luck or by skill, I wasn’t called. Thank you Jesus!
Upon reflection, I’m left with one question, and perhaps a legally savvy person can address this. Okay, I understand that it’s been pretty clearly established that the government can call us away from our lives to perform this service. But one detail rises up in my mind…
We’ve been talking a lot lately about airport security, and why the Fourth Amendment doesn’t protect you from an obligatory cavity search in which a friendly government agent sticks his arm up your wazoo until his fingers tickle your epiglottis. As I understand it, this is permissible because, in voluntarily entering into the transaction with an airline, you have implicitly agreed to be sodomized. If you don’t like this, then don’t buy the ticket. You may think that’s unreasonable, but you can see the logic.
The Court buildings have similar security measures in effect. “When you enter the courthouse, you will go through a metal detector. Your handbag, briefcase, backpack, and any containers may be X-rayed.”
Now maybe I’m nit-picking here, but it seems to me that I have to submit to a search because I’m entering the building, and the law compels me to enter the building, so I have no choice about entering the building. Ergo, the state government is commanding me, through no fault or voluntary action of my own, to exit my home and submit myself to a search. Why is this, unlike airport security, not a violation of the Fourth Amendment?
I suppose the answer is that you cannot, as a result of this Courthouse search, be charged with a crime. That is to say, the Fourth Amendment protects, not against a compelled search in itself, but only against unreasonable search for the purpose of criminal prosecution. There’s a logic to that. But nevertheless, we’ve got the government randomly pulling us out of our homes and searching us. Can’t say I’m comfortable with that.