I reported for jury duty at the Richard Gerstein Justice Building at 8 a.m. on Monday. While I admit I wasn’t thrilled to get the summons (so much work to do, so much time potentially wasted), I found that it was a day exceptionally well spent.
The process was efficient, thorough and respectful of the jurors throughout the day. After explanatory videos, instructions and questionnaires, we had the choice of viewing a movie or waiting in the “quiet room” while judges prepared their cases. (I opted to work quietly.) We were selected in batches of 30 potential jurors per courtroom, from which seven eventually would be chosen.
The bailiff led us to Judge Teresa Pooler’s courtroom, where she expertly described the process and gave us a brief introduction to criminal law and the case at hand. She carefully educated us on our role as jurors, using examples and hypothetical scenarios to illustrate her points. She queried individual potential jurors, seeking our views on the system and making sure we understood our responsibilities. Throughout, Judge Pooler was respectful and sensitive to each potential juror, treating each individual as a VIP. The attorneys for the state and the defense were similarly professional and gracious.
After the jury was chosen (alas, I was rejected), Judge Pooler stepped out of the courtroom to thank all of us for dedicating our time to this critical element of preserving our democratic form of government and an individual’s right to a jury trial.
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Walking to the Metrorail, I reflected on the day. I felt valued, appreciated — even patriotic. As a citizen, I am grateful to all the public servants who make the system work — and work well.
Katy Sorenson, president and CEO, The Good Government Initiative at the University of Miami, Coral Gables