I recently got the dreaded notice that I had been summoned to Brooklyn jury duty. Sadly, I missed the El Chapo jury selection by a few weeks, because I could totally have been bribed for good Mexican drugs.
Doing your civic duty isn’t easy, so here are some survival tips that I wish I had known before arriving.
- Your call time is the ungodly hour of 8:30AM. Don’t arrive too early. They didn’t even take juror cards until 9:45 AM. If you run late no one will notice. I promise.
- If you don’t have time to eat breakfast, pack or buy one on the way. You’ll be stuck in there till at least 1PM. Also bring a bottle of water. You can take this all inside past security with you as long as you don’t have a glass bottle. There is no water fountain or cooler in the holding rooms.
- Everyone automatically sat in the biggest holding room on the second floor. Being the rebel that I am, I ventured into the smaller empty rooms off to the side. One room has cubicles and plugs so you can use your laptop or charge your phone. I was the only one sitting there all morning and it was private & relaxing. I enjoyed my secluded nirvana until around 11:30AM when an annoying lady came in, started talking to herself, dropping Skittles everywhere, then passed out snoring. The juror instructions, intro video and names called get piped into these side rooms, so don’t worry about missing anything.
- There are vending machines by the bathrooms. Bring the equal amount of $1 bills that you would to a strip club, so you can buy coffee and snacks to keep you alive.
- What was going on upstairs? Is there a jail cell up there or something? I kept hearing random men yelling and pounding from above. I decided the sounds could also be the ghosts of past jurors who died waiting to be called.
- Since I had not been called for the voir dire (jury selection process) yet, I was dismissed for lunch at 12:45 PM and told to return at 2PM. Up until that moment I had thought Voir Dire was an appetizer. This is your big opportunity to blow that $40 check you’ll be getting on lunch, but mostly booze. How the hell else are you supposed to survive this awful tedious process? I personally slugged two overpriced Magaritas at Rocco’s down the street, but there are plenty of other good options nearby.
- I returned my pristine private cubicle area around 1:55PM to find it almost completely full of people, with a slew of Fast Food wrappers everywhere! There was only one seat left. What the fuck!? This was a significantly unexpected disappointment. I would now have to spend the remaining three hours waiting to be called smelling McChickens and BO. There were also food wrappers strewn all over the seats in the other rooms. Apparently Brooklyn Courts don’t employ day time cleaners.
- Though the lunch return time was 2 P.M. no one was back to call more names until 3:40PM! They were clearly onto juror day drinking and wanted us to dry out. Again, if you come back a bit late from lunch it’s doubtful anyone would notice.
- Around 4 P.M. they started frantically calling the names of the remaining 70 people on the room. We were then taken into what looked like a classroom, where a court officer took attendance to make sure we had actually come back from lunch. Then he had everyone cram into an elevator to the 19th floor and barked at us to sit in the waiting area.
- We were then herded into a court room where the judge and lawyers were seated. The judge made a speech about how important civil service is while everyone who had just sat in a waiting room for 8 hours rolled their eyes at her. She swore us in and then said we all had to come back at 9:30 A.M. The crowd let out a collective groan. It seemed ridiculous that after a full day of waiting, they would make us spend a second one waiting for the selection process.
- Outside the court room the court officer was giving people the phone number to call if you had a conflict you could not get out of for a second day. Be sure to get this number and the section of court you are in if you need to call out.
- Having several real reasons I could not make it the next day, (including a Dr. appt I had waited four months for), I called the provided number the next morning. They didn’t ask for an explanation and just said thank you for calling. I figured my name would be thrown back in the jury duty pool and i’d have to suffer all over again in a few months. Instead, a week later my “jury duty fulfilled” letter arrived in the mail. Thankfully, my nine hour day of waiting around was enough to complete my required service. I’m safe for six years.
- Jury duty sucks, everyone has to do it, blah blah blah, but there actually ARE many valid ways to be excused from service. If you have them (independent contractor with no employees, student, medical/mental health issues, etc.) be sure to email the court with proof before your date comes up. Not feeling like it isn’t a valid excuse. Don’t ever ignore a notice and not show up, because there is a high risk of having a bench warrant on your record.
Overall, the Brooklyn jury duty system is extremely dated and seems like it hasn’t changed since 1960. I am most shocked that with our current technology, that they haven’t come up with a faster and more modern way to deal with the selection process. Here’s hoping the system changes to a more efficient process, before I have to report again, but it seems doubtful.