Monday, October 4, 2010

Being an American is not a spectator sport…

A couple of weeks ago, we were sitting on our patio, having a lively discussion with my friend, Scottish Woman. She and her husband have recently become American citizens. Does this mean I now have to call her “American Woman”? She was telling us about their swearing-in ceremony and the celebrations that came after. We had missed it, because we were looking at caskets celebrating our anniversary by the lake.

Anyway, it sounded like she had a great time, coming home to a lawn full of American flags and friends dropping in with apple pie. Not knowing anything about expats living in this country, I reminded her that now she’ll pay taxes. She informed me that they have been paying taxes for the whole 10 years they’ve been here. I said, oh, well now you’ll be able to serve in the military. At which point CGMan told us that military service does not require actual citizenship, (a non-citizen cannot be commissioned or become a warrant officer). To which I replied, oh, well now you’ll be able to buy a house, or own land. Then I realized they already own their house.

At this point, I’m asking myself what’s the big deal then, about becoming a citizen of this fine country, if you can do all that stuff and not be?

And then I remembered… She’ll get to vote!

When I was in school, that is one of the many few couple lessons I remember. The right to vote. My teacher was quite passionate on the subject. He told us that our right to vote wasn’t just handed to us, we had to fight for it, and women had to fight even longer! It was something to be protected because without it, our country would fall apart. He also said you would lose your right to vote if you were convicted of a felony. I remember thinking at the time, I would never commit a crime because I didn’t want to lose my right to vote. It was that special to me. I felt empowered knowing I had a vote.

Oooh! With her right to vote, she’ll also get to serve jury duty!

I said to her right then, that if she got called to jury duty before I did, with having been a citizen for all of a fortnight, I would be devastated. You see, I have been a registered voter since I was 18 years old, (which really hasn’t been all that long. Okay, it’s been ages!) and I have yet to be called for jury duty. That was another thing the history teacher was impassioned about, the honor that is jury duty. The honor. Oh, I couldn’t wait to be on a jury of someone’s peers. To be a part of jurisprudence.

So I have been waiting all these long years. Do you know that the Marine was called for jury duty when he was just 18?! He had been registered to vote for all of six months. He also happened to be in boot camp when they sent for him. I had to call the court and explain that he was very busy serving our country in a different way and could not appear for jury assignment. I then asked her if I could come in his stead. She said no, I would have to wait until I was selected. That was almost 10 years ago.

Well, Scottish/American Woman needn’t worry that our friendship is on the line, because guess who finally got a jury summons?

That’s right, 27 years of waiting and voting and waiting some more… I am finally being called to fulfill my civic duty! By the way, don’t think for a moment I didn’t hear you all moan at the mention of jury duty. Just a reminder…be nice to those who still believe in the excitement that is Santa Claus and jury duty.

I can honestly say, I’ve used my years wisely in preparation for this honorable duty…


I have read all of John Grisham’s courtroom books.


  1. Congrats on your Jury call! You'll love it. We have all served on Jury duty, I've served 4 times. My oldest son got called to the Grand Jury last year for 6 months. He went the first week of every month. Sometimes he only stayed a day most times he stayed 3-4 days. He loved it too. It was in Savannah, GA. So he stayed up there for the week.
    Congrats to Scottish Woman too.

  2. Just remember that you can tell a guilty person just by lookin' at 'em.

    I hope you get an interesting case worthy of a Grisham novel.

  3. Maybe I shouldn't tell you that I served on a jury when I was 20, right after I got my driver's license. I was in college, and we found a guy not guilty of selling drugs that he was CLEARLY GUILTY OF. But the stupid DA didn't have enough clear evidence to present. After the trial, I went back to read the papers that I wasn't allowed to during, and found that every other guy there that night plead guilty except for the guy we acquitted. Dammit.

    I almost got to serve on a murder trial as well, but the company I worked for didn't provide any compensation for jury duty, so they let me out. It would have been two months at least anyway, and I'm not sure I could have looked at real crime scene photos.

    Haven't been called again in the last 15 years at least. Good for you for finally getting it! And congrats to Scottish Woman!

  4. There are people out there excited about jury duty? I don't understand. Please rephrase.

    My husband was called for jury duty when he was 18 (that was 9 years ago). I have been called for jury duty THREE TIMES since I was 18, and I'm 23. It stops being fun.

  5. THREE times in twelve days? That is SO not fair.

  6. Congrats to Scottish Woman and her husband on their citizenship.

    My mom and I feel the same way. She was called up just last month and then the trial was cancelled so she didn't even have to show up. Poor mom.

    Good for you for your excitement. It is a big deal and I hope, when all is said and done, you feel you have fulfilled your civic duty.

  7. Congratulations to Scottish Woman, also.

    I have always felt if we had more people who really cared about jury duty sitting on juries, we wouldn't have some of these outlandish settlements you hear about. Good for you! You'll make a great juror - if you get picked. And one of the things they will tell you is to forget all about Grisham and CSI.

  8. I didnt get called till I was older than you....and we got no cases. Dylan got called right after he turned 18 - but it was his high school finals week - a bit more important than being on a jury. i got called for grand jury last week and ended up being the first alternate - basically meaning I was out. boy was I dissapointed. i wanted to get to tour the jail!

  9. What Dawn omitted to tell y'all is that I have been called to jury duty twice since we moved here and both times I got out of it because I wasn't a citizen. So, when she says she got called first, that's not true! Personally, unless it is a particularly juicy case, I hope I do not get called. Maybe I should have mentioned that on my citizenship application...

  10. Way to go Dawn. I think we both have a perfect voting records - I haven't missed since I first voted at 18!

    I really liked serving on a jury. Mine got plea bargained, I was bummed I couldn't give the little twerp probation! The judge told us in chambers he'd likely see him again again, and not in a good way.

  11. Baltimore City must have a small pool of eligible jurists because I get called ALL THE TIME. All I can say is make sure to bring a book or some other way to occupy your time!

  12. I'm having anxiety for you just thinking about the hitches that could occur. (What if I get stomach cramps in court, what if I get so bored I zone out and miss all the pertinent facts, what if my fellow juror has really bad BO)?

    I'll worry about that stuff for you, and you can concentrate on being Miss objectivity.

  13. Congrats to your Scottish friend! Tell her that when I get home again I will raise a wee dram of my Lagavulin in her honor. Maybe even break out the Robbie Burrrrrrns and read a verse or two. : )

    I have been called to jury twice and selected twice. The first time was an assault on a peace officer (we found him not guilty based on how the charge was worded) and the second was a clear cut case of murder. The guy sat on the stand and told us how he did it and why. Not much to say about that, now is there?

    It is a privilege to participate in the judicial system, but that murder case was stressful, looking at the pictures of the poor dead guy and all.

    I hope you get an interesting (and not stressful) case.

  14. I loved my ten days as a juror; I had an interesting case & my fellow jurors were patient, respectful & terrific. However, my sister's experience was much different, she sez that she didn't know just how stupid a group of people could be until she had to deliberate with them.

  15. Are you kidding me? Those jury notification people stalk me! I think it's because I actually, you know, show up when they come knocking. Maybe you just don't have a lot of crime in your city. Apparently, we are overloaded, because I'm getting summoned all the time even though I've never been picked yet. I think it's my hair.

    I even got a summons on the day I walked in the house with my 2 day old baby in my arms. That time I had an excuse.

    If the jury summons was like a super exclusive nightclub, I'd be through the velvet rope every dang time.

    Sheesh. Never picked. I can't believe it.


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