Duty done

Yesterday I had jury duty in Salem. I had to get up at 5:30 to give myself time to drive in through rush-hour traffic and find a parking spot, which was not pleasant but which I managed. There were about 80 of us in the day’s jury pool. We were gathered first in one of the courtrooms to check in and get initial instructions, then we were all ushered across the street into a church basement hall to wait. After about an hour, they called us back over to the courthouse to impanel a jury for a civil suit.

The courthouse is an older building from back in the days when municipal buildings were designed for beauty. It’s showing its age with worn out floors and small bits of damage that have clearly gone unrepaired for generations, but there are still some nice details. The front has stonework reminiscent of a Romanesque church and the courtrooms have wood paneling and lofty windows.

The civil case in question involved a loan made on security that may not have even existed. After some questions from the judge and private discussion among the judge and the lawyers, they impaneled twelve jurors and sent the rest of us back to the waiting room. It was all done very efficiently.

The bailiff told us that there was criminal case preparing that would need jurors later in the day, so we settled in to wait for that. After another couple of hours, though, he came back over to let us know that the criminal case had been settled with a plea and we were all free to go, our service done for another three years.

This experience in Salem was very different from my previous jury duty experiences in New York, which I suppose should be no surprise. In New York the various court officials treated us potential jurors like so many poorly-behaved children, for which I can’t blame them since that’s how a good many of my fellow jurors acted. In Salem, even though we went through the same basic routines, both officials and jurors behaved like reasonable human beings with good will and even a sense of humor. I think I’ve mostly recovered from my years in New York, but it is still nice now and then to be reminded of how different things are here.


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