Civic Duty

Juror

When I received my notice for Jury Duty, it was with mixed feelings. At the age of 64, I hadn’t been called since I was 18. I have no idea why, but it was a bit of a surprise to see that red and white notice. Having just come through an incredibly stressful few months, I was just beginning to settle back down. I really didn’t have time for this.

Yet, I was curious.

I have always found our jury system fascinating: a selected group of people deciding the fate of others. Frightening responsibility. Especially since I believe strongly that incarceration without rehabilitation is a complete failure. I was sure that I would be “that” person who would want to change the law while sitting in the jury room. But, that’s a whole other subject that I will probably never write about here (and, please, folks, let’s not start a debate).

In any event, this was a civil case so I wouldn’t have to decide whether another human being should be incarcerated. However, when I learned it had to do with a dispute over kitchen cabinets I was, well, I will admit it…disappointed. Why did they even pick me? This was going to be boring and tedious and there are a thousand other things I need to do.

Yeah, so I was wrong –

It was incredibly fascinating. So many times from the jury box I wanted to raise my hand to ask for clarification or ask dumb questions like “seriously, did you even read that so-called contract?” It was then I realized why me. A day and a half of testimony and then into deliberation.

Wow…there I sat with 4 millennials and one 40-something. Only three of us owned homes and had any idea what it was like to work with contractors. I could not for the life of me understand why this group was chosen. But this is what happened:

Millennial #1 – student: Took the best notes throughout the trial.
Millennial #2 – an event coordinator: Organized all the evidence from both sides into a time line.
Millennial #3 – home owner: Was the expert on kitchen remodel as the work in her home had just been completed.
Millennial #4 – design specialist: Stepped up to be foreperson. Did a good job leading us without trying to rush us.
40-something – home owner, business manager: worked that whiteboard recording the many votes we had. The many, many votes we had.
Me – well, I quickly got the name Mom. Sigh… maybe it was because I came prepared with healthy snacks? Or maybe it was because I tended to shush everyone and say “Please, let her speak.”? Or…maybe it was that hug I offered when someone was brought to tears? Oh yes, there were tears over kitchen cabinets.

Incredibly fascinating.

When we started we were so far apart: Give them everything they asked for. Give them nothing. Fraud or the cost of  doing business? Passion and frustration. Following much debate, we ended up awarding a very fair settlement that satisfied everyone. It wasn’t easy but it was fair.

Oh, and after we were dismissed, I rode down the elevator with the defendant. He asked me what I thought he should have done differently.

Learn how to write a better contract, my friend…..

 

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