I received my summons in the mail. It’s the third time in my adult life of forty-one years that I’ve been called to report for jury duty. The summons had several pieces of information on it. I went online and acknowledged my receipt of it. I’m not sure why this was supposed to be a good idea. It said that I should do it so I did. It also said that it in no way takes the place of physically showing up at the required time and place. Oh, well. Do what it tells you to do.
Juneteenth. That’s the reason that I had to show up at the Cleveland County Courthouse on Tuesday, the 21st of June. June 19th, 1865 is the day that the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 was enforced in Galveston, TX. It’s only been a federal holiday for a year. But since it fell on a Sunday this year, it’s celebrated day gets moved to Monday and hyphenated with the “-observed” annotation. So the courthouse was closed on Monday, June 20th. Leaving everyone called to report on Tuesday the 21st.
I’ve been to the courthouse before. So I knew that this was not going to be as easy as just showing up. In fact, it took me longer to find a parking place than it did to drive from my OKC home to Norman. The summons advised that there was parking on the north side of the courthouse, metered parking in the street and a lot west of the railroad tracks off of Eufaula. By 8:15 when I arrived, the north lot was full. I didn’t want have meter issues. So I went off looking for the third option.
Honestly, I don’t know if I found the right lot or not. I went around it twice. There were no signs at all to tell you that it was public parking. There were no signs at all. No hours posted. No towing warnings. I was left guessing that since it wasn’t claimed by any of the nearby businesses, it must be the place.
Thankfully, it was a pleasant June morning and I’m in robust health. I walked from the lot, across the street, across the railroad tracks, across the street and up the walkway to the courthouse. The west entrance to the courthouse has signs that tell you that jurors should report to the east side of the courthouse. The east side of the courthouse has signs that tell you that it’s closed and to enter through the west doors. The security at the west doors relieves you of everything in your pockets to pass you through the metal detectors. Once through the metal detectors which red-lighted me, I was relieved of my belt. Which was examined and returned along with everything else and I was left to re-habilitate myself.
From the 1st floor we were told to report the the basement. After signing in in the basement we were told to report to the fourth floor courtroom. Once there, we were told to wait. All of us. The courtroom had an occupancy sign stating that the maximum was 147. (How are those things calculated anyway?) We were told that there were over 120 in our group.
We were told that we were important and that this was a necessary part of the mechanics of the justice machinations. And from our 120+ they were going to pull two groups. One group of 45 and one group of 25. But first exemptions. Anyone (basically) already a part of the legal system? You’re excused. Anyone not allowed to participate in the legal system? felons? non-citizens? You’re excused. Anyone eligible but choosing to opt out? hardship? over age 70? served in the last 5 years? You’re excused. In all, there were 5 excused.
Then they called names. I wasn’t called.
Thank you for participating. You’re excused.
I had a vague sense of relief. A bit of rejection. But mostly a feeling that it could be handled better. I mean, it basically took gas, all morning, and the attention of no fewer than seven state employees to tell me that I wasn’t needed.