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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Aiieeee, the Jury

When I left the Alberta Legislature behind last May, I suspected that it might be a while before I landed another job. I've been fortunate enough to land some freelance writing assignments and a really wonderful online tutoring job for one semester at Grant MacEwan, but a full-time job still eludes me nine months later.It's been a frustrating process, but I remain grateful because I know other Canadians have far greater obstacles to happiness. I'll find the right position, but I have no right to expect it to happen overnight.

The purpose of this post is not to whine about my job search, but to highlight the little curve balls life tosses from time to time. This morning I confirmed that today's EI payment was my last. Alarming news, yes, but I knew it was coming, and Sylvia and I made plans long ago in the unlikely (or so I thought) event that my benefits ran out before I'd found another job. I filed away the news, returned to my job search, and found five positions that each sounded quite appealing. With another batch of applications bravely assaulting the fortifications of HR filtering software, I felt as though the day hadn't been a total loss.

A couple of hours later, Sylvia asked me to take her to Tim Horton's for her signature medium mocha ice cap supreme. On the way we picked up the mail, and...

"Why do I have a letter from Alberta Justice and Attorney General...wait, are you kidding me? Is this a jury summons?"

I tore open the envelope and there it was: a summons to appear at the Court of Queen's Bench for jury selection.

I can't decide if this is the best timing in the world, or the worst. On the one hand, I'm unemployed, so there's really no better time to do my civic duty. And it's a duty I take very seriously; if it turns out that I'm chosen during jury selection, I'm ready to serve. More than that; I'd be proud to serve.

On the other hand, what do I do if a prospective employer offers me a job while I'm sequestered? "What a great offer! I can't wait to start working for you! Er...can I start six months from now, once this trial is over?"

Of course I'm painting a very improbable scenario. The odds of being picked are very slim. The odds of the trial lasting more than a couple of days are slim. And the odds that an employer will make an offer at the worst possible moment are slimmest of all.

...this is exactly what's going to happen, isn't it...?


Totty said...


I've never been called, but both Paul and Pete have been called twice. I know a few other people who've received that letter too. What's a guy gotta do?

"The Jeffth Degree" said...

My advice to you is to run like hell!

Yes, you want to do you civic duty, and that's noble. Everybody loves to be noble. There are many other ways you can be of service to your community, though. To sit in judgement over your peers is got to be one of the most dehumanizing acts a person could perform. It's not like the court cases are like television shows, either. Juried cases end up with juries either because of a legal snarl or because of the magnitude of the case. Either way, you are in for a very crummy ride.

We got called in a massive jury sweep, which we figure was for the Pickton trial. There's no way you could do that and not be scarred for life.

Besides, if you're sequestered, you'll have to stop blogging! And looking for other work.

Some tips to avoid jury duty (apart from simply lying):

First, call the Sheriff's office and ask to be excused. Do not off er an excuse, just ask. "Could I please be released from this jury duty?" If they have a lot of potential jurors, they may just let you go. If you are a student, a parent of an infant, or a shift worker, you can offer that as a means of excuse. If that does not work, you are legally bound to comply. You will have to show up on your own (unpaid) initiative for voir dire. If that, then:

Say that you want to do your civic duty.

Wear a lot of red to the jury selection/voir dire. Be sure to dress down, but don't be obvious. Probably a Flash T-shirt with a food stain would work. I would wear clothes from Value Village.

Read on-line newspapers from out-of-province (or simply admit to that).

Be extremely agreeable.

Be extremely logical.

Be as informed as possible.

Have strong political affiliations.

Admit to being a writer.

These are steps you can take if you decide you do not want to go. I sense some starry-eyed civic pride in your post which may convince you to go. Maybe you really do want to go - I know I absolutely do not. We are different people, so there is no surprise there. The jury system is not there to make you a star citizen. They do not care about you as a person, just that you fulfill a legal necessity.

I seem to recall that we got summoned not long after my EI ran out, so maybe that's a trigger. I suppose if you wanted to volunteer for jury duty... again, that's so far past my imagining, but if you did... you would be contacting the Sherriff's Office and letting them know of your availability. They should know who you could contact to get bumped up the list, if that's even possible. As not a legal expert, I am only guessing, it may be that the (semi) random selection is required for selecting jurors. In any case, admitting that you actually volunteered to be a juror would probably get you thrown out of voir dire.