jury duty summons

Jury Duty – Unexpected Perks

Have you ever noticed that the trip to the mailbox can evoke an extreme range of emotion?  You get highs: handwritten cards and refunds.  And you get lows: correspondence from the tax authorities and the dreaded Jury Summons.  I recently received the latter with Previously Postponed, Must Serve emboldened above my name.  There was no getting out of it this time.  Call me an optimist, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that jury duty brought some unexpected perks. 

A Waste of Time?

There is room for improvement in the American judicial system.  But that goes for any governmental organization in any country.  I’m not just picking on the U.S.  Efforts for the greater good are often botched by bureaucracy and corruption.  As scores of my fellow New York County residents and I lined up to report for duty, I couldn’t help but feel that the whole experience would be a colossal waste of our time.

Jury duty and it's unexpected perks

Eight hours later, I left that building for the day.  I am happy to report that it was not a waste of time.  I left feeling better about my country and myself.  Although I was selected to serve on a case and will need to sacrifice all of next week, I am ready this time and actually looking forward to it.  Here’s why.

Jury Duty and the Unexpected Perks

Gratitude and Respect

I was most impressed with the gratitude and respect shown for the jurors.  The officers of the court and the lawyers consistently said throughout the day how thankful they were that we took the time to fulfill our civil duty.  Although it wasn’t applicable to me because I had already deferred twice, the officers started the day by announcing that if serving now is a real hardship – come talk to them and they will find a better time.  They wanted it to be an “enjoyable” experience for us.

Dedication to Service

The jurors was an extremely diverse group: a full spectrum of people from different generations, races, religions, and economic backgrounds.  Most people called for duty stayed, choosing to serve instead of seeking a deferral.  Who knows?  Maybe they were like me and didn’t have a choice.  Regardless, I was impressed with people’s honesty to the lawyers’ questioning and their contribution to ensure a fair trial for those in need.

New People – New Experience

The first part of the day was boring: going through registration, orientation videos, and waiting to be selected for a panel.  But then it got exciting…like being on a TV show.  Although I am not at liberty to discuss the case I’ve been assigned to, I can tell you that 18 of us were chosen to be interviewed by the lawyers for the case.  After about four hours of questioning, only 4 of us were chosen for the jury.  They had to come back a second day to fill the panel of jurors.

It was a fun experience hearing about the claims of the case, the nuances of judgment required, and getting to learn more about complete strangers’ views of a variety of legal and moral questions.  An unexpected and unique opportunity with to learn.

Civil Duty – a Big Responsibility

It was impressed upon us the importance of our civil duty.  I will be one of six people who will decide the fate of this case.  Not the judge.  We will also decide the penalty…if there is one.  It’s a big responsibility that will greatly affect people’s lives.  So, it’s important that we take our job seriously and be as fair as possible while doing it.  One of the lawyers pointed out – it’s critical that we fulfill this responsibility to the best of our ability.  It’s the only way we can hope to assure the same will be available for us or our family and friends when they are in need.

I would like to close with an excerpt from Eleanor Roosevelt’s book, You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life.  I find it quite inspirational – in the most doable manner.

“Thomas Jefferson said that individual responsibility for the well-being of the community as a whole was an absolutely necessary ingredient to success in a democracy…Whether we, as a whole, are willing to accept this responsibility and live up to it is something of which I cannot be sure.  But we cannot be reminded too often that each of us is responsible for our attitude and our way of life, because they will in turn affect our government.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt


  • Jami says:

    I think this sounds fascinating. I know it’s probably mundane. But maybe in the end it will be a memorable experience.

    • Patricia Makatsaria says:

      I’m actually excited! The case sounds very interesting – I’m anxious to hear the details and laws around this particular topic. I’m sure it will be eye-opening.

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