Tag Archives: Jury Service

Jury Duty for Dummies–Part 4

The reception area:  Loads of bemused neophyte jury panellists. Several security men at the checkpoint. Nobody running dramatically running round in wig and gown ( Sad smile). The security men don’t actually look at you.  The building is circular, the lobby is broad and round.  The effect when you look up and around is of being inside a silo with a load of beetles skittering around the walls. The interior designer may be a Kafka fan. But at least it’s bright.

Jury Minders: They are a lot like tour guides. They shepherd the neophyte jury panellists round with nice smiles and reasonably well-hidden boredom.

The jury minders swiftly herd the bemused ones into a jury reception area.  There are several S shaped swirly seating units that to be quite honest made me feel sea-sick. One side of the room is all glass, looking out onto an old brick wall and a depressed-looking paved garden with some lopped back old trees, that may or may not struggle to put on a few leaves over the next few weeks. Let’s hope I’m not still there to see that.  The grey look is completed with a metal ramp of some sort, I’ve no idea what it’s for. The gardener probably studied Kafka at some point. So far I have not started morphing into a beetle.

Coffee Machine: Don’t be put off by the price on the machine, the coffee really is free. However, because of some gunther I suppose had to be done to allow the machine to give its contents away, you have to press the “sugar” button to get your fix. Don’t worry, although it doesn’t say so anywhere, the machine does not actually put sugar in your beverage. Perhaps the person who installed it was reading Kafka at the time.

Smoking:  Joy! There is a smoking area. One of the minders indicates the location. It’s the depressed-looking paved garden. She says that’s where everybody makes friends.

Roll Call:  Depending on the colour of the reminders (mine was yellow), the bemused ones are herded into separate pens (I mean rooms).  Numbers and names are called out. There’s that Kafka theme again. I count my limbs, still just four, and I haven’t got any desire to eat shit or my fellow insects  – yet.   Although the room was full, people were standing round the walls and sitting on the windowsills, almost half the numbers/names on the roll call were not present.  The name of a well-known actor who played Batman was called out. He was present, but not in uniform.  A David Kelly was not present, I wondered was it the wonderful David Kelly RIP who quietly slipped away yesterday, his passing almost hidden by the wave of Whitney Houston mourners out there in e-world.

Tip No 3: The windowsills are not very comfortable.

So, what actually happened?: If you haven’t already guessed from the opening of Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 3, not a whole lot.  The Clerk briefed the bemused ones about the fire exits, turning off mobile phones when the judge is speaking, and coming when their numbers/names were called. The judge for our court (we have our own court!) would address us through a large monitor. Worryingly, there is a camera fixed to the monitor.  I sat up straight on my windowsill and tried to make sure it would get my best side.  Then the Clerk departed, presumably to go through the same thing with the green bunch.

There’s no clock in the room, everybody is doing their best to look at nobody, and all eyes are averted from the monitor, or rather the camera above the monitor.  After what seems like forever, just when my back end is going numb on the windowsill,  the head minder moves to the top of the room and stands beside the monitor.  Which draws everybody’s attention to the screen, just as an image of a roomful of bemused faces flashes on the screen – it’s true! THEY’ve been checking us out from the courtroom!

The screen flickers again and the judge appears. She gives us the rundown on who is eligible for jury service, and who is not. An exemption I don’t recall from the original hand-out is members of the reserve defence forces who are being paid.  Note – who are being paid. It seems like the Department of Justice has done a deal with the Department of Defence. Pity they didn’t do a similar deal with small businesses and self-employed workers. This week, there will be no jury trials held on Friday. Good news for anybody who is not selected as a jurist.  If we have any connection to the defendant, the defence or the witnesses, we should withdraw. If we are “challenged” (one of the legal eagles doesn’t want us on the jury) we should not be offended.   The judge signs off, telling us that the list for the day will now be discussed, and then numbers/names will be called for selection.

Another long silence ensues. I looked around the room, wondering which of my fellow bemused ones could I stand spending an indefinite time with a ’la 12 Angry Men.  At this point, there are no favourites. After about 1o minutes that felt like 1o years, the screen flicked on, another quick flash of the bemused ones, and the judge reappeared, to tell us that the court did not require a jury today.  She’ll see us all tomorrow – same time, same channel. I was almost disappointed.

PS:  later this evening I got a text from a friend to tell me her brother had seen me at court this morning. He must have been one of the green group – he’s just been chosen for a trial that is expected to run for three weeks.  I’m definitely not disappointed now.

 

Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 1 : Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 2 : Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 3

Jury Duty for Dummies–Part 3

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Getting There and the new building
When I woke up this morning I really, really, did not want to go. I was still worrying about what awful case I might have to sit through, or just whether I would be dragged into something that would last for weeks, so I did my usual “game of chicken” with time and ended up getting a taxi to be sure of arriving at the appointed hour – 09:45.

I have to say it wasn’t the most exciting morning of my life – the only action was the fire-brigade trying to get up the South Quays being blocked by the Garda motorcyclist who was busily (and veeerrrrryyyyyy slllooooowwwwly) telling motorists to get out of the way while driving sedately along in front of the increasingly frustrated firemen. Meanwhile I was quietly panicking – what happens to people if they turn up late?

This is my first view of the new Criminal Courts of Justice building.  I feel sorry for the architect – all that work to design a quite good-looking, functional building, and then it is plonked down in one of the saddest and most depressing-looking parts of Dublin. Perhaps that was for the benefit of the clientele? It’s very sad, really, the Conyngham Road and Parkgate Street junction leads up to one of the finest parks in Europe, location of the National Museum, and the Peoples Gardens, just round the corner form a main railway station and Kilmainham Hospital, e.g. where the tourists go.. and the only decent-looking new public project was a courthouse.  Imagine what they could have done round here with the budget that was thrown away on the Spike?

I got out of the taxi across the road from the main entrance about 09:43.

Tip No 1: Conyngham Road/Parkgate Street is a busy junction. If you are going to leg it across the road, make sure the first car in the oncoming traffic is a Garda vehicle, point to the courthouse and run.  If no Garda car, add at least 5 minutes to your schedule.

Inside the courthouse, the first thing you see is an airport-style security check. Makes you think – are they protecting us from the clients, or the clients from us?

Tip No. 2: If you think you have arrived on time – you haven’t – there’s the queue to get your bag scanned. Add at least 5 minutes to your schedule.

Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 1 : Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 2 : Jury Duty for Dummies – Part 4

Jury Duty for Dummies–Part 2

The day is drawing near…. what makes me say that?  The brown envelope from the County Registrar that landed in my door this morning, that’s what.  “Hmmm,,,” I thought.. “I’ve booked the time off work, added the date to my Outlook Calendar, synched it on my Blackberry, posted about it on my blog… have they cancelled it (hopefully) or what?”

Not that I am unwilling to perform my civic duty, but I am somewhat worried that I will be selected for a trial that goes on for an extended period – I work in a small department and we are just gearing up for a  project with a closing deadline of April 30.. and what if I end up in one of those trials that demands the jury stays in some hotel and can’t go home… how would I survive without my dogs? How would they survive without me? Not to forget the fish or my indoor jungle, or my increasingly desperate attempts to find a good home for the piano.

The other thing that worries me is the possible subject of a trial.  I could bear recommending the North Korean solution in regard to any defendants connected to our present financial crisis, or the responsible Minister, assuming we could ever use the term “responsible” in connection with our Ministers of State.  But look at the news headlines today – 16 year old girl shot in Tallaght, man gets 3 years for torturing a 10 month baby…. how could one cope with sitting through the details of a case like those and remain objective? Or not dissolve in tears?

Hopefully I opened the envelope and swiftly learned that the County Registrar still wants me.  I suppose at this time of my life I should be grateful that anybody wants to make a date with me.  The very helpful CR has reminded me of the date and time and provided yet another leaflet. This one is a little more friendly than the last one. It’s got directions to the court, bus routes, the layout of the building and a run-down of what might happen. We, the potential jurors, get our own minder! I can have a certificate of attendance if I need one, and if I get selected, lunch is provided.   I’m wondering if it turns into one of those lock-in situations whether I will be able to get a doggy-bag out for my beasties.

Some ideas on how not to be selected have occurred to me.  Maybe if I got a T-Shirt emblazoned with “I Red heart Hitler”, or kept some doggie by-product in my pockets? A psychologist I happened to meet today said she could give me some pointers about psychotic behaviour, or I could dress up like Madame Defarge and bring along some knitting.. but then I would be perfectly prepared for shouting “off with his head” for one of those financial miscreants…

Bright side, I don’t have to be there until 09:45, and if I am selected, the chances are that I can leave at 16:30 – which is quite civilised. I don’t have to swear on a Bible or other religious publication, which is a relief as I would be a little concerned about large bolts of lightning or other indications of Godly affront.

5 more days to go.

Functions and Duties of a Juror

Jury Duty for Dummies–Part 1

I’ve reached the ripe old age of (censored) without ever having being called for jury duty. There was one year in my workplace where it seemed my whole department except me was called.  I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or offended.

Anyhooo.. today I got the summons.  For anybody who has not been summoned before, this is what you get:

  • A very complicated jury number

  • A scary form (the information on the back lists a variety of reasons why you might be fined 500 Euro).  The warning is in bold. The warning about the warning is ALL IN CAPS. (Did nobody in the County Registrar’s office ever take a business writing course?

  • An A4 page festooned in bold and CAPS (WRITING skills course anybody?)

  • An A4 page festooned in bold and CAPS as Gaeilge. Maybe the Gaeilgeors don’t mind over-emphasis.

  • A leaflet explaining the contents of the A4 pages and, finally, explaining why it is a good thing to be a juror (I was beginning to wonder…..)

I now know that unless I am 65 or over, a full-time student or teacher, a medical practitioner or a politician, a person in holy orders, an aircraft commander or master of a ship, I don’t get excused.  Interesting that politicians and persons in holy orders are excused, is it because the courts accept our perceptions of the untrustworthiness of our secular and pastoral leaders?

The drill is that I must present myself at the named court on 13th February and make myself available until noon each day, for four days. During this time, I may or may not be chosen to act as a juror.  There is a possibility that a case might run on longer than that. If I am chosen, I can go home each night, unless there are “exceptional circumstances”.

Nothing so far in the information provided indicates that I can’t discuss my experience. So, assuming I don’t get picked for a long-running case that demands I can’t go home each night, I’ll be back with Part 2 on Feb 13.

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