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So You've Decided to Show Up to Jury Duty: A Chicagoist Primer

By Karl Klockars in Miscellaneous on Jan 20, 2010 10:00PM

cookcountyjurorsticker012010.jpg It was just before New Years Eve that I capped off 2009 by receiving a summons for standby jury duty for January 19th. And it was on this Monday that I called the Cook County justice system to have the news barked at me that "if your last name starts with E AS IN ECHO through Z AS IN ZULU" I was to please report to 26th and California bright and early. I lived to tell the tale, and pass it on to you, Dear Reader.

There are a lot of things that people tell you before you go in for jury duty. Bring a book, pack a lunch, don't claim a gang affiliation and only eat from the commissary - wait, that's the jail itself. No, every jury experience is like a snowflake - unique and beautiful, but there are enough unifying factors to allow us to put together this helpful list of tips.

If you've never been called for jury duty, here's a short list of things we wish we knew going into a jury duty experience, after the jump.

  • Leave early. If you expect the CTA or the expressways to get you to 26th and California, and then to have to fight your way into the parking garage, and still be close to be on time for the 9:30 cattle call, don't.
  • Don't wear a belt. Clear out your pockets before you leave the house. There are going to be a hundred pissed off citizens, jurors, defendants, lawyers and other government drudges in front of you that want to get through the metal detectors and the same amount behind you. They don't need you fooling around with your iPod and your cellphone and your Blackberry and your pocket change. Especially while the security staff holler at you and treat you all as potential future inmates.
  • Have your summons with you and present it before you enter the jury room. Otherwise you will be barked at by a self-important uniform whose job it is to keep honest all those hundreds of people trying to sneak into spending time on a jury.
  • Upon checking in, you will be assigned to a panel. Learn the number of your panel so you can cross your fingers and hope that it never gets called by the automaton of a County employee who is your guide through the magical land of civic duty.
  • Watch the introductory video about the processes of the courtroom, if only to be reminded what an young Lester Holt looked like with his full-on 70's-era porn stache. It's the easiest 15 minutes you'll kill all day.
  • Bring change. Don't count on the change machine working and you'll want to be prepared for any last minute coffee needs.
  • Enjoy the view. With any luck you'll never find yourself looking at the skyline from this angle again.
  • Hope you get put on a jury with Mr. T. It wouldn't be the first time.
  • If you do feel like making others wait in the security check, you can bring your laptop. So if you've been planning on starting the Great American Novel or that new Steppenwolf script, now is the time.
  • And that "bring a book" thing? That's no joke. Bring a half-dozen if necessary. I burned through Catcher in the Rye, Death of a Salesman and half of The Watchmen with ease. Your magazines and newspapers will have to be hidden if you get called to a courtroom so you'll need something non-newsy to kill the time.
  • Know your lunch options. Don't be afraid to leave the grounds, as long as you've made your peace with being poked and prodded by security a second time. This LTH thread has a number of good options, which leads us to...
  • When they tell you to take off your court-provided juror sticker before you leave, listen to them. Nothing screams "I AM NOT FROM AROUND HERE AND UNFAMILIAR WITH MY SURROUNDINGS" than a big red "Cook County Juror" sticker on your chest.
  • Learn to enjoy The View, Maury, Judge Whomever, and other midday television programming - but learn to enjoy it being broken and chopped up by a cheap digital TV antenna because there ain't no cable in the jury room.
  • Pray to whatever deity you assign yourself to that your panel doesn't get called to visit a courtroom, and get booted out at around 3pm, just like myself. Use the rest of the afternoon to put on a conceited air of pride for serving your government ably and properly.
  • Decide in advance what fast food and cheap alcohol you're going to purchase with your government-mandated $17.20 to celebrate your newfound freedom from the justice system. Cardinal Liquors at Lincoln and Argyle offers 12'ers of Busch bottles for just $6.99 and there's a McDonalds just across the street. Just sayin'.

Other jury duty experiences can be found from an Examiner here, and from our own Aaron Cynic here. Any other bright ideas from you, fellow civil servants and dismissed disgruntled jurors?