As I opened the mail, I thought, “This can’t be happening.”
I think we all feel the same way — that little bit of hesitation when we get a summon for Jury Duty, thinking we don’t want to do this. One must really think about it once every four years. That’s the least we can do. It’s our civic duty and it’s a privilege to be part of our judicial system. Besides, this is another part of what makes America, America.
Once the letter was opened and it was confirmed that it was in fact a jury duty summons, it was up to me to fill out the simple qualification questionnaire. This was to be completed on paper or online, “but not both.” What I learned later is these questions help the judge and the attorneys speed up the jury selection process, although you may never get to that point. When responding to the questions, be accurate and succinct.
As I finished reading through my jury summons paperwork, I was instructed to call in at 5 p.m. the night before jury selection to get my instructions. My first morning was cleared of duty so I had to call in again at 11:30 a.m. to see if I was needed for the afternoon. I set a reminder on my phone and when I called, the voicemail was clear and easy to understand. Within seconds, I knew I was part of the selection process.
After traveling down I-35E, the courthouse is an easy exit on Wacouta Street to Kellogg Boulevard where you take a right and go a few blocks to Ramsey County District Court. There are several parking garages nearby with an easy skyway connecting to the courthouse. Do not use a parking meter as if you are selected as a juror since you will not be able to leave or add time to your meter even if you have the smart phone app. Lowry Garage and Victory Ramp are listed on the back of the jury summons paperwork and may give you a discount.
It’s key that you be in the waiting room on time or before. If you are late, it will be disruptive and you will miss some of the videos, as well have others stare at you and feeling uncomfortable. You will be given a booklet to read. The dress code is professional as you may be entering a courtroom. Bring some things to fill your time because if you are not called into jury duty you may have to wait on the grounds.
I couldn’t afford not to be working so I quickly logged in and began to work as others around me were doing puzzles and games or reading on electronic devices. Since the cell phone signal is low inside the courthouse, I had to log into WiFi. You wouldn’t want to do any banking transactions while you wait.
Remember, you are entering a secure government building and will go through security screening. It’s not as strict as TSA but has a similar approach. Do not touch the red “stop” button on the baggage scanner as that shuts down the whole system.
As you proceed down the stairs to the waiting room, have your jury summons notice ready so they can scan it and get you into the system quickly. They also have kiosks where scanning is available. Everyone in the building was very helpful in informing us where to go and helping if we looked lost.
I was delighted to go through the process and was intrigued that I made it through the jury questioning. I admit I was relieved that I wasn’t ultimately put on a trial. Consider jury duty a service to your country and smile when you are selected to serve.
Carter Johnson is publisher of Press Publications.