I remember in elementary school a game we used to play called Here Comes the Judge. (Thank you, Public School System of North Carolina, for my fine education!) All the kids closed their eyes, while someone disguised their voice and chanted “here comes the judge, here comes the judge” and you had to guess the identity of the mystery person. Silly game, I know, but every once in a while something will trigger in my head a chant of “here comes the judge”. Anybody else remember this game?
Over the years, I have been summoned for jury duty MANY times. By many, I mean 8, over the course of my adult, married life. Is it just me, or does that seem like a lot? May I add here that the Hubs has NEVER been called. What is up with that?
For 7 of those 8 times, to my great relief, I have managed to get myself excused from serving. Thanks to breast feeding, being the mother of children under 7, living states away from family who could assist in their care, homeschooling and other various reasons. The last time I was summoned was in January of this year. I was about to pull out my folder headed “letters to get out of jury duty” when I called the County Clerk of Court’s office and had a “how can we work this out” convo. Turns out you can transfer your service to a later date. With a sigh of resignation, and thoughts of “if I just go do it, maybe they will leave me alone”, I asked to be transferred to this summer and thus, my term of service began this past Monday.
In the room where my jury buddies and I were held on Monday morning, I sat in the company of about 65 other people, who by all appearances, were as thrilled to be there as I was. I think “miserable looking” is an adequate description. My greatest fear about serving on a jury stemmed from the fact that I was afraid I would have to see and hear things that would haunt me for the rest of forever. I was worried that I would have to hear details of murder and rape and see scary criminals and ultimately decide their fate. And frankly, I resented the way that the court system was taking over my life and I felt like I was a hostage required to do their bidding. So, with “here comes the judge” chanting in my brain, I was prepared to hate the whole experience.
But my perspective quickly changed as the process unfolded—and not just because I was not selected.
Before yesterday, I had never had the occasion to step into a courtroom (shwew!) and my only understanding of courtroom proceedings and judges and justice came from reruns of Law and Order. Ha!
I never really knew why people stood for the judge when he (or she) entered the courtroom. I always thought it was a matter of respect for the office and authority of the judge. Not according to the judge who was presiding over our courtroom yesterday. Hmm, so it is not just because the judge thinks he is “all that’”?
According to Judge Brown, the reason you stand for the judge has nothing to do with the judge. You stand for the robe and what it represents. And what it represents is the greatest country in the world with the greatest justice system in the world. It is the reason so many leave their own countries and come to the United States. Though it is not perfect, it is still the best in the world. The robe represents freedom and those who fight sacrificially for our freedom. You stand out of respect for our nation. Okay. Interesting.
I was digging this Judge Brown. He went on to express his gratitude for our service, noting that he knows that there is never a convenient time to serve on jury duty. <WORD! I’ll second that!> He said that jury duty is the only service that we are called on as citizens to perform for our country. Think about it. Many of our fathers and grandfathers were drafted into the armed services. But they don’t require that anymore (thankfully). What other service does our government call on us, require us, to perform…besides paying taxes <raised eyebrow>? Voting is optional. Abiding by the laws, yes. But when it comes to performing a service for our country and fellow citizens, I cannot think of anything else. Again, interesting.
About then, I started feeling all patriotic. And then, I was honestly disappointed when I wasn’t selected to serve on the jury. I was glad, in the end, that I had the experience of seeing our judicial system at work and I could go home and share this new found perspective with my kids.
(Is anyone else hearing Lee Greenwood singing, “and I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m freeee….”)
Thanks, Judge Brown. Our fine state can be proud to have a judge like you. I hope the next time I get called to serve, and with my luck, that will be soon, you are the one on the bench wearing that black robe. I will gladly stand for you.