In the past year I have read only one article bearing any relationship to what I will write of today. The one column was written by a liberal fellow who is a great writer but a terrible thinker. That such skill should be employed to promote a dystopic paradigm encapsulates the liberal conundrum; talent wasted upon people who can’t reason clearly through the fog of ego.
My summons to jury duty arrived last month. We all dread the summons; even the word is dark and ominous, like the devil calling your numbered soul. “You are hereby ordered to appear…” is not a phrase most of us are confronted with on a day to day basis. I sat down immediately upon receiving the black spot and filled out a questionnaire online. All that was left for the next thirty days was a growing apprehension.
What most terrified this young soul trapped in an aging body was the early morning drive to a destination unfamiliar. My wife’s cousin Beagle knows all about being at court. He must thrive there because of his extended efforts to be summoned: Not obtaining a driver’s license for fifteen years, failure to purchase insurance, getting behind on child support payments. These continuing lapses amount to an achievement monumental. One must hone the stupid to a fine point in order to live in this manner. Personally I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep for worry; Beagle seems comfortably comatose when awake. On one occasion the police had to flush his Beagle butt out of the attic. He laughs when telling his many court stories. He is a good storyteller by virtue of extended repertoire. Fortunately he rarely leaves the house so my exposure is limited.
On the appointed day I got up and left in the dark. I am sheepish about being on the road with experts; the 6:00 AM traffic shift expects everyone to be apace. I cut only one speeder off as he was gaining on me from the right. The exit had come up suddenly; he let me off with a honk and a warning finger. I turned the moment I saw a sign saying “juror parking”. It was a short two block stroll to the beautiful Hall of Justice building. One obstacle remained; the dreaded security detail. They were as rude and unhelpful as any TSA storm trooper of your acquaintance. We shouldn’t put up with this stuff.
The woman who checked us in was almost joyful in her greeting. That’s more like it. We sat down, about 250 in number, filled out a short form, and brought out the books and magazines, symbols of a long day offing. The guy next to me talked for the next 45 minutes, but because he didn’t seem to care if anyone was listening I didn’t.
The joyful lady called out twenty five or so names in alphabetical order, my name was not on the list. This pattern was repeated four more times over the next four hours. My name came up in the sixth round. About twenty of us were escorted by armed guards to a seventh floor courtroom. The defendant and his attorney had their back to us, the prosecutor was in profile.
The judge quickly addressed us. He was a kindly late sixties and described himself as a retired visiting judge. He then gave the most magnificent brief upon the judicial system that one can imagine. He stretched back to the Athenians and sprinted forward to “English Law”. He assured us that our liberty depended upon being judged by peers rather than authoritarians. Wonk this:
Lib·er·ty ˈlibərdē/ noun
- The state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.
He told us that liberty is a recent concept born of only the last three hundred years; the idea of free men, not subjects imprisoned or enslaved, is still in infancy and needs our protection. That is what we would be doing during the afternoon trial; seeing to and thereby assuring our liberty.
Master teachers such as this judge have a marvelous effect upon people; suddenly I wanted my name called. You could see a change in countenance upon all but one of the prospective juror’s faces, moments ago dull and listless now eager to serve liberty and please this thoughtful and wise man. He knew he had us, so he mentioned that in thirty years on the bench he found that juries always come up with the best decision, the correct decision, and he knew we would try our best to do so in this case.
I have never witnessed a team built so quickly.
The attorneys and the defendant introduced themselves and the Voir Dire process began. They exempted four, including the sour pussy fellow who didn’t want any part of protecting his liberty. My name was not called to replace them. They exempted three more and still my name was not called. Now there were only two prospects sitting on the bench thinking let me in, coach. The lawyers and the judge agreed this current team was the one they would work with. The judge kindly, he obviously knows no other way, thanked and dismissed the benchwarmers.
For a moment I felt dismissed in a personal sense; Hey, I am a valuable asset to any team! Don’t leave without me!
Out in the hall the spell was broken. The judge’s magnetism could not penetrate stone walls. The joyful lady downstairs checked me out. There was a bad accident on I-94, try to find an alternate route. I drove north until a familiar freeway appeared. Later I went to work.
I wish that President Obama and all of Congress had been in that court with me. They would have seen the traditions we have built at work. These constructs work because we are determined to be a free people. We don’t need change; there is hope and promise and change built into the system we inherited. It deserves our trust. We are not perfect, but we are a hell of a lot better than Obama and Congress thinks of us and treats our rule of law.
Perhaps we should take them to court. I know the perfect one.