One fact you didn’t know about me: I’ve served on jury duty more times than anyone I know — of any age.
Starting at age 19 in New Jersey, I’ve been called for jury duty at least six times and have served on at least five juries in New Jersey, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. (It’s been so many times that I’ve lost count, honestly.) I’ve served on a grand jury and have also been on a jury that was sequestered overnight in a Staten Island hotel during deliberations in a criminal case.
Why have I served so many times? I think the simple answer is this: I’ve never tried to avoid it. When I get the summons, I show up and I answer the voir dire questions truthfully. Most times, I’m selected for a jury but occasionally (like this week) I’m excused.
Civic duty aside, serving on a jury provides a fascinating look into the justice system. Everything about the process is interesting to me: how juries are selected, how evidence is presented, how deliberations are done, how the courthouse is maintained, and how court operations work. In the Manhattan and Brooklyn courts I’ve served in, the court staff have been unfailingly courteous and efficient, keeping jurors informed at every step what to expect and how long things will take.
A nice bonus of serving in Manhattan is that the state courthouses at 60 and 100 Centre Streets are architecturally significant and worth a visit just for the beautiful interior design. An equally nice bonus is that you’re just steps away from a delicious and inexpensive lunch in Chinatown.
But most importantly: on every jury I’ve served on, I’ve always been impressed at how many safeguards have been built into the system to produce a fair outcome — so much more than you’d expect from just watching the news or in courtroom dramas. We all know there are many flaws with the American justice system, but once you do jury duty I think you will leave with a stronger appreciation of its merits.
As I tell all my friends: if you’re called to jury duty, you should go. It’s the right thing to do and quite interesting to boot. And if you can serve in Law & Order land, two baos and a tea for lunch at Mei Lai Wah is less than $6 and quite tasty.