All Rise

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So, here it is…Production Day. It comes once a month, and it is the day we send both editions of our magazine to press. It is normally a very busy day (and one on which I schedule nothing else). But what am I doing today? I am sitting on the third floor of the Walker County Courthouse in the district courtroom, with more than 70 other people who also received a white card in their mailbox with the words “Jury Summons” printed on it. As you have probably surmised by now, I am passing the waiting time by writing this column on my phone!

While here this morning, I have seen citizens of our community from all walks of life—those who are retired and those who work. Those who came here dressed for work are (most likely) headed straight to their job when we are released. Some of these jobs seem to be evident by what these folks are wearing: the gray uniform of our TDCJ employees, nursing scrubs, or business attire. Some are wearing the “uniform” of a rancher, but boots and jeans are so common here that they may just be dressed for a day off!

In addition to the clothing, there’s another aspect of outward appearance I find fascinating. The expressions on faces. I see smiles and frowns. I see boredom. I see frustration and contentment. I see faces intent on reading the book in their hand or whatever is on their electronic device. I see faces I know. I see many I don’t. I see faces looking around for other faces they know. I see faces of many ages. I see faces belonging to multiple races.

But, the thing that will stick with me most from this morning are the voices. The sweet voices of those saying good morning. The voices of potential jurors asking if they may sit here. And the voice behind me (one I don’t have a face to put with, but the one who was angry)—frustrated at being called… aggravated to have to drive here…angry about the money she was going to lose at work.

I get that…I really do.

It’s been a long time since I was called for jury duty. When I received the card in the mail, I told my family, “Of all days!!!” I read the exemption list carefully to see if I could claim an exemption, but none applied. My son received a summons, too…but he is in college and had a class. That’s a qualified exemption. Not fair, I thought!

Fair. That’s what it’s really all about.

Our legal system does its best to be fair. It’s not perfect; far from it I know, but it is the best system in the world, and it involves all of us (you, me, my son, and the frustrated lady behind me). We are a community and, when called, we are also the jury of peers needed in our court systems. I hope that when you’re needed, you’ll go. And remember, you never know who is watching (or listening) to how you handle your civic duty.

Until next time ~ Karen

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