Is this what we have to go through to uphold the American right to a trial by jury? Perhaps so. I must say, they have gone to great lengths to make the process as painless and efficient as possible.
As one might have guessed, I'm sitting here in the Jury Assembly room of the King County Superior Court at the Regional Justice Center in Kent. Fortunately they have wifi internet connectivity here, which makes for a slightly more efficient way to pass the time. But in the interests of infotainment, here's a running commentary of today's events thus far:
8:00am - Arrive at the courthouse, make your way through the metal detectors at security, and check in with the nice people at the desk in the Jury Assembly room. Nice facility, I must say... and very efficient process. Just have to grab a clipboard and fill out my "Juror Biography" form (in triplicate, of course... gotta love bureaucracy) that basically asks your age, occupation, where you live, and various other classifying questions that would be provided to the lawyers should you be picked for a jury pool.
8:30am - I'd suspect about 150-200 potential jurors are gathered by now. One of the judges dropped by to welcome us all and give us an obviously scripted spiel about how important we are to the judicial process and such... though she obviously ad-libbed a lot of it too and added much more sincerity than a scripted list would do. This followed by a well-designed, yet incredibly cheesy "How to be a juror" video describing the activities. I felt like I was watching the pre-flight safety briefing video you see on some airplanes.
9:00am - Orientation complete... time to sit around and do nothing. We get the first announcement of the day, informing us that there are 4 potential jury trials on the docket today. Sit back, relax, and enjoy doing nothing.
9:30am - Update... 1 of the 4 potential trials will not be requiring a jury. Make that 3 potential jury trials remaining. I think it's a slow day at the RJC.
10:20am - After a brief 20 minute break to walk around and stretch our legs outside of the JA room, we receive the first jury impaneling of the morning. 15 names are called, and they all immediately leave for their mission. 2 potential juries remain.
11:00am - The 2 trials may still need juries, but definitely not before lunch. Since official lunch time is 12:00am-1:30pm, we may leave now and be back by 1:30pm. A nice 2 1/2 hour lunch break. I realized that I should have brought my laptop, and now with a 2.5 hour break, I drove back to my parents house in Federal Way, got my laptop and had some lunch... and then got back to the RJC at about 12:45 or so to sit and relax with the wifi connectivity.
1:30pm - Everyone's back from lunch, and time to call more jurors. This time they're going to impanel 40 jurors. (Based on this, we guess that it's probably a pretty big criminal trial they're dealing with.) I was not one of the 40 selected. Good news or bad news? We shall see. The 40 all turn in their juror bio forms and receive a number, and come back to relax some more while the counsel reviews their forms. Tick tick tick... 1 potential jury remains.
2:15pm - The 40-member jury panel receives word that the case has settled (I've watched enough Law and Order to piece this together... lots of legal bluffing from one side or the other... threatening to go to a jury, scared the defense enough to take a plea). As a result, those 40 people who did nothing but get assigned a number, are dismissed with the thanks of the court. They were technically on a jury even though they never actually left the jury room... so they don't have to come back tomorrow and they're done. Suddenly everyone's wishing they were one of the 40 selected. :)
2:30pm - With one potential jury remaining, and by my estimations well over 100 potential jurors in the room, it's quite clear that a lot of us will be returning tomorrow. But, at this point I have a minor celebrity-sighting. Who is one of the other potential jurors in the pool, none other than former Washington State Governor Mike Lowry! As my friend Jonell said, "That's a mug you can't miss!" True enough. Anyway, shortly after 2:30, we get the final announcement: the last trial has plenty of work to get through the rest of the day, and won't need a jury until tomorrow. So, we're all excused early, and will report again at 8:45am on Thursday. If we still aren't selected, that's the ballgame and we've served our time. Otherwise in the unfortunate event that I get selected for a jury, I could end up back again later the following week to continue on a trial. We'll see how things turn out. Time to go home!