Many of you receive my blog in your email inbox every day, at which point you can make the choice to delete, do nothing, or click through to my site and read.
While the title “Jury Duty” may not sound very sexy, I ask you to stay with me, click, and read. It’s important!
I love being in the Multnomah County Courthouse, despite knowing if there’s an earthquake while I’m in it, I will surely perish.
While that makes me sad, knowing that the collapse will take a few bad apple lawyers out as well gives me some peace at the thought of my untimely demise.
As I told you yesterday, I was called for jury duty this week and I was thrilled. I have always wanted to serve on a jury and I feel strongly that it’s our civic duty. Without juries our legal system would obviously collapse, and decisions on all matters that wind up in the courts would be made by just one person: the judge.
Although we have a constitutional right to a jury trial in civil and criminal matters, we do not have such a right when it comes to family law.
Think about that and ask yourself: why?
I have seen many cases in which a judge makes horribly unfair (or just plain crazy and stupid) rulings and I wonder: if 12 people had decided the case instead of just one, wouldn’t the outcome have been more fair?
Given the divorce rates, shouldn’t we have our cases be decided by people who have been similarly situated, not just one who may or may not have been divorced and who may or may not have their own agenda or simply not give a damn about the family?
/side rant over
I sat in the jury pen anxiously on Monday morning, waiting for my name to be called so I could begin administering justice upon my fellow Americans.
“Here!” I shouted gleefully, not even bothering to correct her mangled pronunciation of my name. As I gathered my things together I was struck by how many names were being called. The two cases calling for jurors prior to this one had about 20-30 names called. This case felt closer to 60 or even 80.
“Wow!” I said excitedly to my new best friend Al, who had sat in the chair next to me in the jury pen and immediately started chatting me up. “This must be a big case!”
Al’s name was then called, and off we went, arm in arm, to face voir dire together.
Have I mentioned that? Here’s how small it is:
When we filed into the courtroom I noted:
- I’d met the judge and I went to law school with his niece
- A juror seated in front of me was also a lawyer and an old friend of my dad’s
- I’d met both the attorneys on the defense side, because
- They defended my former employer on employment matters.
Then I looked at the other people seated around defense counsel table and I started to laugh. Not out loud, mind you. I didn’t want to appear to be a lunatic.
I leaned over to my new seat mate, name unknown, and told him, “This case is against my former employer. Isn’t that weird! Nice knowing you!”
He looked confused. “Are you talking to me?”
“Why, yes!” I said. “Isn’t it funny how Portland is such a small town!?”
He smirked and turned away.
“I’m originally from Wenatchee. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
Duly chastened, I tried to make eye contact with one of the defendants, whom I liked very much during the time I worked at the company and whom I treated very badly when I left (also, very badly).
Remember yesterday’s blog when I linked to the column describing my experience with Chantix?
Now, that is no excuse for why I crapped all over a great job (great at the time, I just don’t want to do it anymore) and great people. But it is an explanation. I’d like to think there’s a difference.
Back to the case:
The judge, perched with authority in his judge-y bench with his judge-y robe and his judge-y hammer, also known as a “gavel,” peered down upon the packed courtroom and introduced himself. He summarized the case and as he read the defendants’ names I found myself mouthing the names along with him and beaming proudly, as if I had just correctly answered an extremely obscure question on a television quiz show.
I looked around to see if anyone was gazing upon me in awe of my profound psychic powers. My new seat partner, name still unknown, leaned as far away from me as was possible. Maybe it was my perfume?
The judge asked the jurors as a group whether any of us knew any of the parties in the case or the attorneys. I reluctantly raised my hand.
“Mizzz…Mizzz…DeeCamp? Or is it DayCamp?”
“DesCamp,” I gently corrected him. “Don’t worry, it happens all the time.”
A look of recognition flashed across his face. I think the judge is a big fan of my blog, don’t you? At the least he must remember meeting me. I’m unforgettable!
“So, Mizzz DesCamp, who do you know in this case?”
“Basically, everyone!” I chirped with pride.
“And how do you know them?” his Honorable Honorness inquired.
“I used to work for the corporation defendant,” I laughed, picking up my purse and smoothing out my dress in preparation for my impending departure.
“Oh really? What did you do there?”
“I was in-house counsel,” I stated, rising from my seat.
“Thank you, Mizzz DeeCamp. You are excused,” said the adorable man in the black dress. At that point I feigned surprise and, as the courtroom burst into laughter, I actually took a bow and gave a little pageant wave.
“It’s ‘DesCamp’ The ‘s’ isn’t silent. Anyway, I thought you’d say that! Thanks for having me!”
As I exited the courtroom, I put my hand on the shoulder of my former co-worker and whispered into his ear:
“I am so sorry for being such an asshole years ago.”
He smiled and nodded, which at first made me happy but later concerned me. Was he accepting my apology, or was he just laughing and thinking, “You’re still an asshole, Robin! Get your damn hand off my shoulder!”
As I wandered back to the jury pen, I worried further. Is it possible he heard me wrong? Is it possible he thought I said, “I’m sorry you were such an asshole years ago?”
I worry too much. It’s one of my least-admirable qualities.
Asking for Forgiveness
I’ll fill you in on the rest of my jury service in the next blog, but for today I want to share the incredible power of admitting your wrongs and apologizing for them.
Ever since my epic Chantix meltdown and accompanying self-destruction at that company, I have had deep regrets over my actions and how I impacted people with whom I had worked.
I was, in a word, awful.
I’d had episodes like this in my life, usually exacerbated by the Black Dog, and that one several years ago was the last. I finally grew up and learned how to manage my moods without destroying my life.
Taking a firm hand with myself improved my mental health. As a result, the more I accepted personal responsibility for the dark turns my life had taken, the fewer of those turns I faced.
When I left that courtroom Monday, I felt as if the weight of the world had been lifted from my back – and I didn’t even know it was there.
I realize this is a tangent, but hear me out.
As much as I know I’ve excelled in recent years in my personal development, sometimes something happens that either shows me I’m not where I need to be or that kicks me into a higher level of self-awareness and happiness.
Asking that man to forgive me while simultaneously taking responsibility for my actions (in an abbreviated but crystal-clear admission of fault) was so freeing as to be difficult to describe.
If you look back on your life right now, is there someone to whom you owe an apology and an assumption of responsibility for something you did wrong? Do you blame others for your problems and totally discount the role you play in them? Is everything bad in your life “someone else’s fault?*”
This is an advice blog so here’s my advice:
Reach out and touch someone (with their permission) today. Say you’re sorry, admit what you did and why it was wrong, ask for their forgiveness, and if you really want to go the extra mile, ask them what you can do to rectify things.
Tune in tomorrow for Jury Duty, Part II. Have a wonderful day!
*Observation of the day: isn’t it interesting that the same people who believe everything bad in their life is the fault of someone else concurrently believe that they are solely responsible for everything good in their life?