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LAist Goes to Court

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Excuses like, "My dog ate my summons," "I'm agoraphobic," and even the credible, "I'm not compensated for time off," are all useless. Unless you're a septuagenarian or perhaps an officer of the peace, there's no escaping. Yes... Despite our best efforts, even LAist was subject to jury duty.

We took a deep breath and realized if fellow journalist and media guru Oprah could do it, then we would cherish our spirit and perform our civic duty.

So, on Thursday of last week, LAist drove into the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Although we are familiar with some streets, we drove in circles for about 45 minutes trying to find the right garage. 99% of all the parking lots around the Superior Court post a sign saying "NO JURORS." Curt parking attendants and impatient drivers who knew their way around town waved various digits at us, but failed to point us in the right direction. An hour late, with sweat dripping on our brow, we finally found the juror-friendly parking lot on the corner of Olive and 1st.

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With the help of a friendly lawyer who sensed we were lost and frazzled, LAist found the criminal court building. We were almost an hour and a half late, slightly dizzy from a lack of breakfast, and out of breath. After passing through the metal detectors, we made a dash for the 5th floor.

Thankfully, it takes about two hours for the court to process all the jurors. We were just in time for orientation and were not required to reschedule. Having served in other cities, LAist was [pleasantly] surprised to learn that Los Angeles created a One-Trial term of service. In a nutshell, that means if you aren't chosen for a jury selection process (panel) for that day, your service is complete for one year. To support this positive change, the city summons over 10,000 Angelenos each day. Given our diverse and equally agitated company, we realized there was nothing to complain about.

To the city's credit, once you arrive, the process is fairly painless. Web kiosks are now available for jurors to use. They cost $6 for one hour or $10 for one day of unlimited use. Jurors are given a generous 90 minute lunch break, and they are usually excused as soon as the office receives word that no additional jurors are needed for the afternoon. The city knows you don't want to be there. They are making some strides to ease the process. LAist applauds that, even if this was a colossal waste of a day. At 4pm, after hours of sitting around, we were absolved of our duty for one year. It was a good feeling.

A few suggestions to the Los Angeles Superior Court:

  1. When people renew their licenses, give them the option to volunteer for duty. We know there are several patriotic Angelenos that would jump at the chance to participate in the Democratic process. This would free those of us who are too busy or financially straddled to do so. It would also infuse the jury pool with a batch of enthusiastic citizens.
  2. Give special consideration to freelancers and contractors. They may lose their clientele if they serve on a long criminal case.
  3. If anyone is unemployed, bump them to the front of the jury pool. They'll appreciate the free lunch and $15 compensation more than someone who's being docked a day's wages.
  4. Turn on the TVs in the waiting room. We know they work.

If you're summoned, LAist encourages you to suck it up and go. After all, you'd want the best possible group of people if you were on trial. Just remember to bring ample reading material, snacks and to pad your driving time by about an hour to account for parking. Oprah survived, LAist made it... so will you.