Order in the Court


I just spent two long days with people that I will never see again.  They know me as juror #2474.

Lets go back to the beginning.  I ignored my summons.  I’ve never done this but all my friends are doing it.  So?  I don’t know one person who has done jury duty and they all keep telling me they throw the summons away.  I didn’t have the nerve (thank God, I’ll explain).  Then some weeks went by and a postcard from “them” arrived with a threat.  Apparently, I ignored my first summons (wt?) and in doing so, they can fine me $1500.  Fuck them. But now I’m scared so I follow the instructions on the postcard.  I register online and now I’m in the system and it just fucked everything up.  I have the week scheduled but at the time it seemed far away.  Suddenly at Thanksgiving weekend, I remembered and excused myself from a party to go home and watch the orientation video.  It’ s a series of several 10-minute videos, taking up an hour of your time with a questionnaire at the end of each boring video.  A prompt said to make sure we had the juror badge.  I hadn’t seen a juror badge so I searched for that original summons and opened it.  Sure enough, it was there so I was never going to be able to lie and tell them I didn’t get that first summons.

View from the Courthouse

View from the Courthouse

I dreaded making that phone call the night before, but assumed, as in earlier years, that the recorded voice would say I didn’t have to appear.  I banked on it.  I was wrong. They were punishing me for ignoring that first summons, these little fucks.  I was to show up bright and early (for me) at 9:30 in Inglewood (are you fucking kidding me?) at what is called the Airport Courthouse.  I needed GPS to help me locate the building but since I hate freeways Siri was going crazy with all my surface street navigating.   Finally, I throw myself into a parking spot—late.   No one even checks me in, I’m just told to wait.  I settle in with my computer, recharge my useless iPhone which ran out of batteries because of the GPS,  and pull together my own office space at a table  I’m hogging that should be for four people.   I keep thinking that in an hour or so we will be told to leave.  Been there, done that before.  But not this time, no—they call everyone’s name and tell us to go to the 7th floor Courtroom A.  I’m making up that it’s Courtroom A, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.  We are told to stand in one line by a lady (Gestapo).  None of us, and there are at least 80 of us, can do anything right according to this woman who’s running a tight ship.  Now, we, the cattle are ushered into seats, and luckily I manage to get an aisle which I always need.  I have claustrophobia, plus I need to go to the bathroom.  A LOT!!!

My Juror badge

My Juror badge

The judge tells us all his rules for around a half hour.  No jury business whatsoever. And then he calls lunch.  It’s 12:00.  I want to go home.  He says to come back at 1:30.   What?  I raise my hand.  He asks me what I need.  “Why are we taking such a long lunch break?  We should just do an hour lunch.  Come back and get this thing done.”  He laughs and tells all of us that this has always been the rule and it’s not going to change.  Oy.  So now I have to sit in that miserable lunchroom for an hour and a half?  I don’t eat food from a cafeteria so I pull out my can of salmon that I brought with two slices of my favorite baguette from Maison Giraud.   At least I didn’t bring caviar, okay?   I post a picture of my ghetto lunch on Instagram.  It looks like I’m now the really crazy old lady that carries around and eats her own cat food.  But this is no ordinary can of salmon, it’s Alaskan wild.  They call it that because it’s wildly expensive at $8.00.   I look around at what others have on their trays and say out loud to no one who cares, “They should bring a few good food trucks here at lunch time.”  It’s like I said it to the air.  No response.  With no one to talk to and nothing to do, all day long, I’m in my head with a story about Domy.  In case you don’t know who Domy is in my cast of life characters, she is the housekeeper, once babysitter for 22 years.  Tonight we’re having our kids over for Chanukah dinner, and Domy is the one that usually cooks our latkes.  However each year, it’s head games to get her on board.  I know how to play her game but, sitting there all day, I was getting madder and madder about it all.  And, I kept texting my husband on how to handle Domy in the matter of the latkes.  Throw money at her.  She will say she needs to clean.  She will be bratty.   By the way, I hate my latke dependence on Domy, a Catholic Mexican– but she’s so brilliant at making them and I’m not.

Wild caught salmon for lunch.  Jealous?

Wild caught salmon for lunch. Jealous?

I get back up to the 7th floor at 1:00 because I need to be the first in line to grab that aisle seat.  They don’t bring us in until 1:50.  I’m not happy about how long this is taking.  I stand aside so others can file in, but the cop orders me to follow them and sit.  I say, “I can’t because I need the aisle.”  The judge says sternly, “Do what he tells you.”  I pretend not to hear him.  I stand my ground and end up on the aisle where I need to be.    That cop, by the way, was throwing his tiny bit of authority around all day.   A day that becomes very long.  Even longer sitting in a room with cold air blasting and people sneezing and coughing all over me.  Each prospective juror brought up calls for a “sidebar” and is dismissed.  Very few stay.  But the process is so slow that very few of us have been called up to the jury box.  One person who’s been excused walks in front of the judge and the cop runs towards him and suddenly things get very serious.   We are informed to NEVER EVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE,  walk in what is called the “well”—the area in front of the judge.  The judge tells us the deputy could shoot you for that.   Such a drama queen!

It’s   4:30 now and the judge tells us to come back tomorrow.  Oy.  Come back tomorrow?  I needed this to end.  I needed this to never begin.   I heard from a fellow juror that the elevator had problems that day so before I step on, I ask the blonde chick who happens to be the prosecutor in my case what she knows about the broken elevator.  She looks at me in this nasty way and says humorlessly,  “I’m not allowed to talk to you.”  About an elevator?  Really?  I sense she won’t even ride with me in the elevator, not that I will be stepping in it for fear I could get stuck.  I walk down the stairs.   I drive home and get lost because I don’t know how to reverse the navigation system.  It’s worth it.  I’m at the beach in Playa del Rey looking at possibly the most spectacular sunset I have ever witnessed.   I’m tired and cranky from the long day but the potato pancakes are worth all the mishugas with Domy who we throw money at.  And, we throw even more of it at our kids.

Next morning, I dress more casually because I had noticed that either no one has taste or no one got the memo about how to dress in that orientation video.  One video specifically showed a person wearing shorts and flip-flops and a big NO.  Then they showed people in casual work attire and said YES.  Well, some dude in my group, group 9 if anyone asks, wore shorts, flip-flops and a T-shirt that read Stoner Daze.   I’m dressed in sweat pants, but they’re upscale casual because they are groovy and made of cashmere.  I’m late again.  Okay, truth is I always stop and pee at the Ralphs in the Marina, which makes me late both days.  Does it matter? No way.  We are kept waiting for nearly an hour.  Who’s in charge of organizing around here?

I start complaining to the group of now 50-odd people about the cop yesterday and the chick with an attitude who ushered us in and out all day, scolding us for walking back into the courtroom without permission.   I say, “Oh, I also don’t love the blonde lawyer.  Side note (not bar—legal humor): both lawyer chicks look like little girls playing lawyer dress up.   A random attorney walks by so I heckle him and say, “Oh HELLO, guess you can’t talk to us!!”  He says, “I don’t follow that rule,” and says hello to all of us.  We walk into the room and I grab my usual aisle seat.  There’s a new cop and a new chick today.  The first prospective juror asks for, guess what, a sidebar.  It’s quiet in the room and the cop, today a woman, seems playful so I say, “ I like you a lot more then the cop yesterday, he was a prick.”  I get a huge laugh from literally everyone including the defendant charged with the crime.  And now I’m on a roll so I continue.  “And the other woman yesterday was nasty, and so is the blonde lawyer who refused to answer me about the broken elevator.  Come on, guys, let’s get a group photo,” I say while the audience is still captive.   All I really want is my chance at that sidebar to give them a piece of my overly opinionated mind.  I could have been thrown off yesterday had they called me.  The whole friggin second day goes by and they call almost every single person up, except five of us, and voila, they selected their jury.  That only took two full days.  I have some notes for them about this process.

I walk into my house after the second day and my husband, surprised to see me, says,  “I fully expected a call to bail you out after they locked you up for contempt of court.”

Latkes:  I leave these ingredients out for Domy and after that you’re on your own.  Russet potato’s.  Onion.  Flour.  Egg. Canola Oil.   Domy learned to make potato pancakes around 20 years ago from my friend Andrea.  Sadly, I never learned how and find it too much work or too hard.  Bravo to all of you that make latkes.  I add sour cream and guess what else?  Caviar!!!!

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9 Responses to “Order in the Court”

  1. Carol Ward Dudley says:

    Last time I was dismissed because I was extremely sensitive to the black woman sitting next to me – her son was murdered and the killer was still in Rikers – two others were working their tails off at Burger King – she said she was able to serve – the guy being tried was black and the other guys attorneys felt I would be on his side – How the judge even let this woman stay on was beyond me – a friend of mine was 6 minutes late getting to the court house and they kicked her off the jury – (she never took the subway before) – Its a very complicated system – don’t have a clue how to fix it – there was a doctor with three heart patients in ICU – the Judge FINALLY let him leave – they come and get you in NYC no matter who you are.

  2. caryn says:

    Good job, 2474, for not being thrown in the slammer!

  3. Jonah Wilson says:

    Another great story by the one and only Fredde Duke!

  4. cristi ulrich says:

    Hilarious!! The only thing worse than Jury Duty is Traffic School – no phones, no books, no computers. Put me in a cell for one day instead – at least I can sleep or read!

  5. Julie Phalen says:

    Haha, I would love to do jury duty with you! I’m surprised that it took you until the 2nd day to captivate your audience. Can’t believe that you bring your own can of salmon, such a bag lady. Do you carry a carpet bag with you?

  6. Mumy says:

    If I were filling out a Vanity Fair Proust Questionnaire, when asked to name my favorite writers… You’d be top of the list, Ms. Duke.

  7. Pauli says:

    No one does it better. Perfect journal of a very boring couple of days. Thank god for sunsets, latkes & of course CAVIAR.

  8. Great Story. I actually laughed out loud, which I never do because why do it unless you want someone to know you’re laughing. Who’s story is this? ANyway, loved it and you.

    Also, I once lied to get on a Jury in my early twenties because I was just out of grad school and bored. Then I was so bored being on a jury trying a guy named DILLINGER who embezzled from a BANK. No lie. Open and shut case already, bad name for crime. I got a doctors note to get off of the jury. Gives you an idea about my twenties.

  9. Hoov says:

    The record will show they are a bunch of ego ass holes and not a fucking word about it is our duty.. Fuck the system I say. Mahalo Mr. Duke. Such a great word for all, IMHO! Wakko you rock. Aloha Hoov

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