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Roger L. Simon

The View from the Juror Assembly Room

April 5th, 2013 - 3:16 pm

Note: Stock photo may not be entirely accurate reflection of current jury assemblage.

I am typing this in a juror assembly room at the Los Angeles Superior Court where I am awaiting a jury assignment. For a workaholic like me, no time is good for jury service, but I have no choice, having postponed so many times.

It is also the day it was announced that our country has its lowest labor participation rate since 1979. In benighted California the situation is undoubtedly worse. Some are reporting the real unemployment rate is 23 percent. Here in the Golden State it might be pushing thirty, if anybody really knows.

Looking around the juror assembly room I wonder how many of these people are employed. What do they do?  A few, the more middle class, while away the time on their iPads and Kindles, but most look grim, sitting there doing nothing, eyes straight ahead hour after hour, waiting for their names to be called.

The postponement line is shorter than i have ever seen it.  Why postpone when you have nothing else to do? And jurors here are paid fifteen dollars a day plus thirty-four cents a mile transportation reimbursement.  These days that’s a good job.  If David Stockman is to be believed — and I’m not one to doubt him — that’s where we’re all headed.

In Los Anqeles’ civic buildings everything looks tatty and run-down, not quite Cuba but on the way.  New facilities are almost always constructed of some unaesthetic material like melmac to resist the weather and graffiti.  The lights are all still fluorescent, net yet the yet more unappealing green kind, but they’re coming, I imagine.

The clerk calls the names for the first panel.  I am not mentioned and I watch the forty or so people file out to the court room in sheeplike fashion. One of the names called, oh ghosts of the L.A. Superior Court, is Nicole Brown 00 but it seems not to be the same person.

Are we already in 1984 or Brave New World? At least then they gave us soma. Or are we in a pre-revolutionary society?   Will the U.S. soon be like Egypt, disaffected youth rioting in the streets.  Los Angeles has enough potential soldiers in that not yet existent war to staff several competing armies.

But who will be our secular and who our religious, who the students and who the Muslim Brotherhood?  If you asked someone like Chris Matthews, he would have an easy answer for you.  He would know who to call a racist and who not from among the myriad racial stocks that make up the City of Angels.

I find the situation to be too bleak even to be angry at him.  Or at Barack Obama who appears to alternate between campaigning and vacationing while the citizens he governs sit on their couches imbibing whatever self-administered soma is a hand.  What else do they have to do?

His presidency has been unquestionably the least successful of my lifetime. Its only accomplishment is a healthcare plan that nobody understands let alone wants.  Americans are polarized as never before.  Mass unemployment has become the new normal.

Back when I was a child of the sixties, revolution appealed to me (a little bit anyway — though not as much as Robert Redford, evidently).  It seemed at the time it might be good to shake things up. Now — in my sixties — I’m rather less interested in government overthrow.

Ironically, America appears to need some kind of revolution now, much more than it did back then.  But not of the kind envisioned by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin or even Bill Ayers or Bernardine Dohrn. More the type envisioned by Thomas Jefferson.  After all, he was the man who said:  “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure. ”

I’m not quite ready to take Jefferson literally.  I’m not even sure he took himself that way.  But I do know the country I live in now is not the one in which I grew up.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage, image atop article by Shutterstock.com.)

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All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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My classmate's mom makes $74 an hour on the laptop. She has been unemployed for seven months but last month her payment was $18637 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site Fox78.com
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
My only paying gig in the past year and a half has been 3 days of Jury Duty. I rather enjoyed the diversion.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Here in Texas state jury pools are heavily made up of retired, government or union members, or the unemployed. Seldom will you see someone who is self-employed or a manager or a professional in the pool. They do get served; they just don't show because it is a colossal waste of their time and they risk getting tied up on a jury for weeks. Some famous trials here have taken over year. And so, due to that burden, we make do with people who are basically Obama voters. The plaintiff's bar loves it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Really? Maybe Dallas has a better class of citizen then where you are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The sixties (your sixties) is an excellent time to toss the present administration into the ash bin of history.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No, Jefferson didn't mean it literally, in the sense of "Let's go out and start shooting people". The entire context is actually very interesting: much more subtle and wise than the bare quote might indicate. Not all that surprising, really, from the same man who wrote the Declaration:

http://tinyurl.com/jefferson-on-sheas
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It's a one-day system Roger, so did you get on a trial or are you done?

I went through the LA system twelve years ago when you had to sit there FOR TWO WEEKS waiting for whatever. Finally got on a drunk driving trial that manage to go on for several days.

The one thing that strikes any participant is the glacial pace, as JMCC says. I agree that trials should be kept to a couple of days, max. I cannot believe the quality of justice would suffer, much more likely improve. And then average working citizens could do their civic duty on real trials.

Come on folks, Judge Judy manages a case or three in 22 minutes.

It would also be nice if the jurors could ask questions, although you can see how that could easily get out of control. France uses professional jurors, right? Not sure if that works, but we can see how it might suggest itself.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What really struck me when called for jury duty last year was what contempt the political class of the state of California has for its citizens. For a start the jury pool was overwhelmingly white middle class anglo - in a city where we make up less than one third of the residents. Back home in London, a city far more cosmopolitan than SF, more than 90% of residents are eligible to be called for jury duty. It is a civic duty that falls on everyone. Once in the court house it quickly became very evident that the state of California considers us jury pool members as little more than vassals whose time was essentially worthless and the state gave little weight to costing us weeks of lost income to participate in mostly frivolous law suits.

In the UK if you are called for one week of jury duty and if you get selected for a Crown Court case the case rarely lasts more than two or three days. If the case looks like it will last longer then anyone who is self employed or who can show any real financial loss from being a jury member in a longer case can easily get a bye. The current jury system in California is a travesty of the common law jury system and I know I for one will not participate again until the state actually starts treating its jury pool with the most basic respect. First all residents should be eligible, no exemption, And very few trials have any reason to last for more than two or three days. All the current time wasting in court could be dealt with during pretrial and by a vigorous reform of court procedures. But with so many lawyers in Sac I dont expect this any time soon.

Maybe that is all part of the plan. They have already gerrymanders us out of an effective vote. Now only Free Stuff Democrats have any point voting in this state. And the court system is now set up that any sane person will do their damnedest to avoid having their time wasted, often at great personal financial loss, by a overweening bureaucracy.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The real UE rate when calculated as a ratio of the able bodied too young to draw SS to the number of people working is indeed around 23%, and the worst it has been since women entered the work force in great numbers in the 1970's. Yet ObamaRx has done and is doing everything in his power, Constitutional or not, to further destroy the US manufacturing base.

Service economy my ass. The old farmer was right when he said there are 3 and only 3 ways to create wealth. You can mine it, grow it, or manufacture it. That's it, folks, in a nutshell. It has become almost impossible under the weight of federal regulation to mine or build wealth. Until we get that through our collective thcik skulls we are well and truly screwed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Roger - the picture you paint of that courthouse and of your musing over what many of those 90M people are doing during our national 'down time' reminds me of the bleak picture that reporters posted of life in the old USSR. People trudging through their daily work routine in meaningless jobs - stopping at the liquor store for that next quart or gallon of vodka to make it through one more night. Little or no hope of upward mobility - and little to entertain. Certainly Pravda was no joyous thing to watch. Kind of like the MSM we have here today huh?

Except that I saw in my mind millions of people sitting at home - perhaps waiting for the next unemployment check (if they are so lucky) - or watching a soap opera or baseball game on the big screen tv - maybe lighting up a doobie or having a beer and cruising the internet. Or partying with the neighbors. I think they had better enjoy the moment - more than likely things will get worse before they get better - if they ever do get better. We aren't that far removed from a living standard that would make the living standard of the average cold war USSR citizen look good.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I find it interesting that LA, which for an Easterner like me is the archetype of affluent and sunny CA, has a proto-Cuban courthouse, while here in rust belt PA, home of the "bitter clingers", we have a new courthouse in the medium sized town of West Chester that is a veritable palace, complete with a convenient parking garage just across the street.
I think I'll stay here. And learn how to write sentences with less than 60 words.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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