SPOKANE, Wash. - It's the ultimate in checks and balances, the very thing that makes our legal system great. But, for a lot of people, jury duty is nothing more than a colossal inconvenience.
For some people, it's enough to make their stomachs drop when they see the summons in the mail. I know that feeling - I've been called for jury duty three times in just over four years.
I wanted to know what many of you have also wondered: who gets called for jury duty?Good Question: Who gets called for jury duty?
"It's the luck of the draw, yet it is," Leanne Wakefield assured me. She's the assistant court administrator and has been helping corral juries for a long time.
She assured me that, while I appear to be just lucky when it comes to getting called for jury duty so many times, they really don't know my name is Luck when it's time for me to be summoned.
"When we summons, we tell the system, 'we need x amount of jurors for the cases two months later' and it goes out randomly. It picks however many people, it's random," Wakefield said. "We can't look at the names or anything like that."
In Spokane, it all happens on the computers in the jury office on the third floor of the courthouse annex. Voter registration records, driver's license numbers and state ID's become random numbers.
Every year, a new number is assigned to correspond to your name. When your number's up, it's up. Then, you head to the jury assembly room. It's purgatory, where you hurry up and wait to be called for a trial. You're locked in for two weeks and can serve on more than one jury per term.
Typically, though, you'll only serve on one jury if you're called at all. Most cases are wrapped up in three days.
"You don't think about how important jury service is until you're called to serve," said Judge Maryann Moreno. She's seen her share of juries over the years; in fact, I served on a jury in her courtroom a few years ago.
Despite stories of people giving bizarre excuses to get out of jury service, Judge Moreno said most people take it seriously once they get into the courtroom.
"People have this thought that it's going to be drudgery, then they realize they're going to make some really important decisions," said Judge Moreno. "I think they feel pretty good."
The court staff doesn't want to torture you; they want you to be free and clear to make fair decisions. If you absolutely don't have someone to watch your kids, you'll likely be excused. Have a trip planned? They'll work with you to reschedule. And, if your boss won't pay you for missing work, you can be reimbursed.
With more than 7,000 people called for jury service every year in Spokane County, chances are you'll sit in a jury box at some point.
Or, if you're me, probably more than once.