I’m Biased Against the Other Jurors – Does That Count?

Get to the point!

Spent all day yesterday at the SF Superior Court as a prospective juror. Things started off well enough – I was to be there at 8:45 AM. I live fairly close by and it was a quick ride on La Nuit Verte, so I got there with plenty of time to spare. Or so I thought… When I drove into the Civic Center garage to lock up my bike, I discovered I had left the keys to my locks at home. Ugh. Zoomed home, retrieved my keys, changed shirts as I was now drenched with sweat due to exertion and stress from my phobia about being late and then headed back.

Amazingly, I was at the courthouse right on time – only to discover that the package inspecting x-ray machine was on the fritz, meaning hand searches of all bags prior to admittance. The line to get into the building was a block long, extending from Polk all the way to Van Ness. I finally made it in inside after half an hour. Good thing I rushed back!

After an hour or so of sitting around in the jury assembly room, was sent up along with 60 or so other poor saps to sit through voir dire.

Voir dire – from Old French and derives from Latin verum, “that which is true”. It is not related to the modern French word voir, which derives from Latin vidēre (“to see”), though the expression is now often interpreted by false etymology to mean “to see [them] say”. It is a process in which counsel asks prospective jurors a variety of questions to determine if they harbor any bias related to the case being tried. Answers are generally provided in a rambling and nonsensical manner and are most typically unrelated to the question asked. It is a delight.

What is especially enjoyable is that there were basically four questions: Have you filed a workers’ comp claim? Have you had any dealings, good or bad, with liability insurance carriers? Have you been sued? Have you ever had an accident involving an elevator? Yet, even after four hours of the same line of questioning, every prospective juror responded as if they had never heard the questions or considered their answers. And many took it as an opportunity to deliver long-winded monologues, on subjects including expounding on the philosophy that “facts” don’t exist and are merely a construct; the difficulty their daughter is having during her studies in London; that elevators make them “uncomfortable”; and their membership in the Christian Fellowship Club while attending UC San Diego.

By 3:00 in the afternoon, I’d begun to groan audibly (though not sufficiently so to risk being found in contempt of court) and was cradling my head in my hands. But, thank Vishnu/Odin/Flying Spaghetti Monster/et al., I escaped unscathed, dismissed from serving and not eligible to be called again for another year.

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