04 August 2005

Jury Duty

I got the new computer about noon Tuesday. The process of simply transferring my data took the entire rest of the day. In fact, I didn't actually finish. I left the two laptops at the office overnight, copying data from the old one to the new one across the network. I thought I'd get back to the process first thing Wednesday morning and start actually installing some programs.


One thing I forgot to mention when I was making excuses for not blogging much this week was this: I'm on standby for jury duty. So, naturally, I got notification that I needed to be at the courthouse Wednesday morning. So much for installing software. (See Monday's post for a reminder of the principle at work here.)

I hate jury duty. The process is unbearably demeaning and inefficient. You're herded into a large waiting room with some 200 people where an obnoxious woman yells the same instructions she has been yelling at people every day of her life for years. There's a portable public address system at her podium, but she doesn't use it. She seems to like screaming at people. After all, her life is like "Groundhog Day." She's done this same morning briefing so many times that her delivery is a cynical sing-song. I've heard the same speech from the same woman with all the same "jokes" every time I've gone for jury duty for the past four years.

I have never been seated on a jury. I probably never will be. Attorneys don't want strongly opinionated people on juries.

But today was something special. I knew it would be when I walked in and the first thing I saw floating in the juror pool was a barely-post-puberty angry-goth-type guy with thick, dark tattoos all over his arms, a massive bent-barbell-shaped piercing-rod through his septum, and a wrinkled black t-shirt reading "Satan is my Homeboy." I don't think this was a ploy to keep from being seated as a juror. He looked like he meant it.

Anyway, I'll spare you the long account. After all the interminable preliminary lectures and forms to be filled out, they herded all 200 of us into a single courtroom built for 50, where a harsh-voiced, angry-looking, much-too-masculine woman presides as judge. She informed us that they are beginning the voir dire process for a major multiple murder trial that will probably last a minimum of seven weeks. My heart sunk. She thought that might be a hardship for some of us, so they had forms to be filled out for people requesting hardship exemptions. She sternly cautioned us that in only a few instances would she consider anyone's circumstances a real hardship, but fortunately for me, one of the "real" hardships she listed was for those who have a vacation booked with non-refundable tickets.

Darlene and I are going to be spending some days in Tulsa with my parents in a few weeks, so I asked for one of the forms to request the hardship exemptions. Then at the lunch break, I phoned Darlene to make sure the tickets were non-refundable. The judge said she wanted flight numbers and departure time, so Darlene got me all that information, and I wrote it with the maximum possible detail and pathos on the form supplied.

So did 90 percent of the potential jurors. No surprise there. Frankly, it's hard to see how a 7-week trial would not be a serious hardship for anyone who lives in the real world, but the judge didn't see it that way. Before even reading the forms to see what our actual hardships were, she chided the whole group because so many of us wanted to be excused. She took the opportunity to deliver an angry lecture about the cost of citizenship. Frankly, I think most in the jury pool were more concerned about the cost of rent and groceries after being out of work for seven weeks, but there you are.

Satan's homeboy was not one of the people who requested a hardship exemption. The $15 per diem may be more money than he has ever earned in his life.

What a mess the American court system is! I get called for jury duty virtually every 12 months. I'm not alone. Almost everyone in our office gets called regularly, too. There's hardly a week in the year when we don't have someone in the office on standby for jury duty.

At the end of the day, they excused me with about a hundred other hardship cases. On the way out, the woman who screams instructions at potential jurors told me, "See you in twelve months."

I can't wait.

Phil's signature


Stephen Dunning said...

In the UK, a minister of religion is not permitted to do Jury duty!

Patrick Chan said...

Yeah, I wish we could reform the court system somehow. Maybe we should start by paying judges and attorneys $15 per diem for their sick days and/or vacation time rather than having it paid based on their annual salary. So it's not quite the same as having to miss out on 7 weeks of work, but, hey, it's a start... ;-)

Jeri said...

I'll be 45 years old in September. I've been called for jury duty once in my life.

Savage Baptist said...

Your parents live in Tulsa? They show excellent taste.

Joe said...

So how does the fact that they don't like opinionated people affect YOU?

Paul said...

I am 22 years old and I have been called into jury duty 4 times. I hate to even talk about it because it has been almost a year. A good piece of advice I recieved from a wise brother was to let everyone know that you believe that all men are sinners, and deserve eternal punishment. That usually will take care of any seven weeks stays.

Jeff Wright said...

Hey Phil,

Did you know that a jury can return a verdict of not guilty regardless of whether or not they believe the defendant to be so or not if they think his punishment would be unjust?

I didn't (and I pursused a legal education at one time.)


Renee said...

I have jury duty for the first time at the end of the month....I am not looking forward to it (thanks for reminding me why :-) )

Peter Bogert said...

And then you come home to my Phils beating your Cubs in the 9th inning on a passed ball. Ouch.

Jeff Blogworthy said...

Jeff said:

Did you know that a jury can return a verdict of not guilty regardless of whether or not they believe the defendant to be so or not if they think his punishment would be unjust?

I think I figured that about about the time of the OJ verdict.

Caddiechaplain said...

Whoa! I had an incredible thought, "Phil Johnson, Calvinist/Evangelist, shares Jesus without complaining with a Satanist," Then, all of a sudden, I wake up from a nap! Shame on you for not making the most of an opportunity that only comes once every twelve months!

burttd said...

SoCal is very populous. How is it that you get called for jury duty every year? I lived in Northern Virignia for eight years and never got called once. (True, when I lived in Maryland I got called up after only five months in residence, but they never called me again afterwards.)

Clare said...

Thanks for that post Phil - made me howl with laughter!


puritanicoal said...

At least you have hardship exemptions in California. In Texas, the only exemptions are being the full-time caretaker of children, being a student, over the age of 70, active military, and a few other insignificant considersations. REAL hardships, such as paying rent, or non-refundable tickets are merely the sacrifices of citizenship.

However, most people know what to say to not get chosen. It's only those on a steady diet of Springer and Oprah who WANT to be chosen, and usually are. They are, incidentally, the same people who pay millions to the family of a person who died of lung cancer from smoking for 40 years.

Don't get me started.....

Brad Huston said...


I rather doubt that if Christ was called to jury duty that He would return from primliminaries only to mock our judical system -regardless of its flaws. Futher, I also know that He would feel it necessary to add colorful aspersions on those He associated with in the process in order to make the story more appealing or humorous.

Sure, jury duty is an inconvenience and it beats anarchy. Of course, if we descended into total anarchy, we wouldn't have to worry about paying our food bills (or trips to Tulsa).


Brad Huston said...


The above should read:

"I also know that He wouldn't feel it necessary to add colorful aspersions on those He associated with in the process in order to make the story more appealing or humorous"

steve said...

Bro. Phil,

The quickest way to get out of jury duty is to show up at the court house with an O'Reilly Factor T-shirt. Just for added insult-to-injury, include a John 3:16 baseball cap!

Bethany said...

Weren't you even curious to find out what a Satanist actually does for a living?

TEX said...


I didn't know you had any connections to Tulsa...cool! I lived in Tulsa from 3rd grade through 10th grade. My mom and step dad live there still (just down the hill from southern hills country club)...but we lived in a far different part of Tulsa when I was growing up (7th and Harvard...across from the TU campus). Did you live there for a while or are your parents just living there now? My schools while in Tulsa: Kendall Elementary, Woodrow Wilson Jr. High (the same Jr. High my parents went to) and Booker T. Washington High School. I ran track and our track coach called us his "little white rabbits". anywho...another great post Phil! really enjoying the blog!

mark in beaumont

FX Turk said...


I'd make the trip to buy you lunch -- unless it's the week of 9/14, when I'll be in Nashville.

Tulsa ... !

FX Turk said...

I have never been called for jury duty. And any judge lecturing a person with a job about citizenship needs to have her head examined.

Ben There said...

Phil...you're a hoot! I've only been called for jury duty once in my life and it was as you wrote, but not nearly as funny. Thanks for the laugh. (But seriously, TULSA for a vacation?)

Oh, and Broken Messenger needs to light up.

Ben There said...

Oops, I meant "Broken Messenger needs to LIGHTEN up." I don't want to inadvertently encourage him to light up any tobacco products or other "products."

anoninva said...


Please tell me you gave the Hip hop Bible to the guy with tatoos?

Dan Edelen said...


You will never have to sit on a jury in your life. Our legal system does not want thoughtful, intelligent people, just those that are persuadable.

I was once in a CA jury pool and was selected. The lawyers grilled us prospective jurors and one of the questions we were asked was, "Are you well read?" Obviously, that's a vague question, so I asked for clarification. I was told by the lawyer that "well read" meant that I read a book, magazine, or newspaper at least one day a week. I was shocked at such a low standard. Surely everyone here would be considered well read by that definition, right? But only three other men also said yes. Just three. In the end, all four of us got booted. As we four were escorted out, one of the men said to me, "I weep for our legal system."

So do I.

SoccerReformer said...

Dear Phil,

You expect me to believe that you are vacationing IN OKLAHOMA!!!!

Request Denied. Don't worry, when deliberations are done we can go bowling together.


Judge MAN-dy

Phil Johnson said...

Anoniva, Bethy, and Caddie:

Yes, actually, I fully intended to speak to Satan's homeboy first opportunity I got. (I hadn't thought of giving him a copy of the hip-hop Bible, but then it's not quite the right demographic for a studded, tattooed goth guy, is it? There needs to be a companion to this Bible).

Anyway, I looked for him from the lunch break on. The reason I know he didn't ask for a hardship exemption is that he wasn't in court after the lunch recess. Her judgeship had given those not claiming hardship permission to take the afternoon off until 3:30, and my grouop was dismissed at 3:25. So I never saw him after the early morning roll call. Otherwise, I would certainly have struck up a conversation with him. Too bad the opportunity slipped away.

Phil Johnson said...

Oh, by the way, Broken Messenger:

Thanks for the WWJD sentiments. Got me thinking:

It's a little difficult to imagine what Jesus might do if turned loose on the American "justice" system. I honestly don't think He would find much good to say about it.

But when He dealt with similar things in first-century Judea, He evidently didn't regard mockery or even table-turning "violence" as too over-the-top. I can't think of anything good He ever said about the lawyers of His day. Can you?

What, precisely, offends you? America has an unjust and evil judicial system where evildoers are routinely absolved by unjust judges and stupid juries, and people with petty civil complaints are regularly given larcenous monetary awards. I hope you're not more offended at someone's mockery of that system than you are at the injustice the system perpetrates.

John Haller said...

I think we need some perspective here. If you need a jury, you'll want people to be on it.

I'm a lawyer, and when I am in trial my world stops. I don't get a vacation while you're sitting there either. And, you didn't have to read all the crap I did before the trial started. It may not seem like it, but you are getting the interesting stuff.

So stick to bashing fads and leave us great, kind lawyers alone! :)

Actually, Phil, I agree. The system is really broken. It's based little on fact and logic, it's PoMo. Emotion rules. the most disgusting seminar I ever attended was on how to fool juries, oops, I mean, persuade them. The unregenerate jury consultants will be consigned to the depths of hell.

Only been called for jury duty once. Think I got picked?

Bethany said...

Oh I wasn't picking on you, simply curious...what does a Satanist do? I mean, do you think he wears his Satan is my homeboy shirt to work? Hmmm..just interesting thoughts.

I saw a Satanist on TV once and he was rather well-dressed and clean cut and I thought, "I wonder if I would know he was a Satanist if I worked with him or walked by him on the street." (like we think non-Christians would know we are Christians by the way we live). hmm..random thoughts...

jthomas899 said...

The difference between lawyers and jurors is that lawyers are getting alot more money than the jury. The comparison breaks down because it is the lawyers job to be there, and he gets paid more money than the jury.


Brad Huston said...

"It's a little difficult to imagine what Jesus might do if turned loose on the American "justice" system. I honestly don't think He would find much good to say about it."

Probably, that said, I strongly doubt that during His ministry He came away complaining of having to obey to the law, and I don't remember Him casting aspersions on those He came in contact with for the sake of adding humor to complaints.

"But when He dealt with similar things in first-century Judea, He evidently didn't regard mockery or even table-turning "violence" as too over-the-top. I can't think of anything good He ever said about the lawyers of His day. Can you?"

Jesus "flames" (pun intended Mr. Pyromaniac) the Pharisees and this gives us license to complain? The desert wandering Israelites who complained got a bum deal then. Phil, if you're speaking of His rebuke of their works in relation to what they instructed, no, He didn't have anything kind to say. But Jesus rebuked on the basis of what the Pharisees had done, not on the basis of their physical traits.

Are you advocating license to complain and grumble about authority? I can think of passages in Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy that one might use to disagree with you.

"What, precisely, offends you?"

Christians who are quick to grumble and complain about moral decay and church stagnation without a willingness to do anything about it. Phil, maybe you're not part of the problem, I don't know you personally, but the tone of your writing concerning this experience here doesn't lend to helping the matter or addressing a solution and I don't understand how any of this edifying to this end. I know you just meant to honestly tell a story you thought would be humorous. I just see it through a lens of our current culture in the church that is more interested in sharing what's wrong with America, rather than sharing a faith in Jesus Christ.


Char said...

Funny post, but my favorite quote belongs to ben there;

Oh, and Broken Messenger needs to light up.

Freudian slip? Hahahahaha :D
Ah thanks for the laugh guys.

Jeremiah Johnson said...

Broken Messenger,
The Encarta Dictionary (which came free with my computer) defines satire as "the use of wit, especially irony, sarcasm, and ridicule, to attack the vices and follies of humankind."

All that Phil is attempting to do here is provide a little bit of satire concerning his day wasted in completion of his civic duty.
Furthermore, if you truly believe that Phil is in some way sinning somewhere within this satirical account of his day, or in his comedic description of the many different characters that crossed his path that day, then it is your duty to approach him in private, instead of this public badgering that you are engaging in currently.

By the way, as long as we are venting complaints, then I have one. I cannot abide Christians who march around with a holier-than-thou, ivory tower approach to anything other than iron-clad God-talk. You must be a whole lotta fun at a party, b.m. This is PHIL'S weblog; what gives you the right to swoop in like a Catholic school nun and commence to finger-waggin'?

Oh, and one other thing. As long as we're considering what Jesus would do, I have a suggestion. I am pretty confident that Jesus would re-read his post at least once before He published the following:
"Christians who are quick to grumble and complain about moral decay and church stagnation without a willingness to do anything about it. Phil, maybe you're not part of the problem..."

I suppose that concludes my rant; if nothing else, I've at least taken your all-seeing eye off of Phil for a moment and given you plenty of ammunition, or at least enough to get you through the weekend.
Mensa Reject

steve said...

To second Phil's comment about unjust judges, most of the ills of our judicial system are the fault of unjust judges. They are the ones, and not our elected lawmakers, who concocted all these made-up rules that let obviously and grossly guilty defendants off the hook on petty technicalities; and sometime, evens when the jury does the right thing, the judge simply voids the jury verdict if it offends his liberal sensibilities. And that's before we ever get to the grander examples of judicial activism. Three cheers for Phil! Hip, hip, hurray!

GL said...

Puritanicoal is correct about the exceptions in Texas, and may I say that it is particularly sweet when you're a student doing a PhD program in another state. I can't get residency in VA because I arrived for the purpose of being a grad student. So I retain Texas residence and never get called in either state.

Pyro, you're right about Jesus. He might just show up for jury duty as the Divine Warrior. I think it's called the great and terrible Day of the Lord.

Unknown said...

For all of you bashing Broken Arrow, I applaud his willingness to be the one contrary post concerning Phil’s Jury Duty post. While, I certainly can understand Phil’s misgivings about jury duty and the current state of our judicial system, this was much more than just satire of his day. His annoyance (hatred) with the process and his overwhelming desire to try to figure out a way to avoid jury duty is what permeated the post. However I certainly can sympathize with his dilemma.. Hmmm… jury duty… my brand new pc at home just waiting for me…jury duty…new pc….aaahhh!!!!

However, this is our government folks. With attitudes like this, no wonder we have come to this point with our judicial system. How about asking a few questions like, why did God allow my number to come up. What is He trying to show me? I am being selected for this because He knows the details of this case and He want me to sit on this trial?

Phil… you say “America has an unjust and evil judicial system where evildoers are routinely absolved by unjust judges …”

The unjustness also swings the other way where many truly innocent people have endured decades behind bars or worse, where the evildoers are the police and the judges, who have fabricated and planted evidence, lied in the interview room in order to gain an coerced confession by any means necessary. Next time, maybe..just… maybe, God wants you on a jury, a child of His, to be used by Him to thwart an injustice.

Lastly I leave you all with this quote:

Many forms of Government (Judicial Systems) have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy (Our Judicial System) is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy (Our Judicial System) is the worst form of government (Law) except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
Sir Winston Churchill, Hansard, November 11, 1947
British politician (1874 - 1965)

Do we really want to return to the days of posse’s hunting a suspect down and hanging them on the spot, with no trial or evidence? Or shall we try some other countries wonderful systems of justice like China or Saudi Arabia?

By the way I was chosen as a juror for a Federal bank robbery trial, and I thoroughly enjoyed it and I blog about it here.


Renee said...

"Or shall we try some other countries wonderful systems of justice like China or Saudi Arabia? "

They don't seem to have a rampant problem :-)

Phil Johnson said...

So Candleman, let me get this straight. The legitimacy of democracy itself is tied to the American judicial system? If I question the soundness of the latter, I have in effect renounced the former?

I liked your trick of quoting Winston Churchill on democracy and substituting the words "judicial system" in place of government.

But I still don't accept the equivalence. What the American judicial system has become is not about democracy. It's an institutionalized rebellion against the biblical concept of justice. I have almost as much contempt for it as I have for the "legal process" that allowed Ahab to confiscate Naboth's vineyard through the corrupt system of Ahab's day.

Scripture condemns ALL injustice, whether it means the righteous suffer or the guilty get off scot free. The fact that the American system is rife with both types of injustice doesn't make it "balanced," you know.

Patrick said...

So Phil, my question for you is this:

what kind of computer did you get?

puritanicoal said...

I have to say, as much as I want to side with Broken and Candle, I think their arguments are well-intended, but still off.

I start with the premise: democracy is probably the supreme form of government for fallen man in a modern society. However, post-fall, God set Israel on the path of being goverened as a kingdom of priests, i.e., a rule of righteousness. Then it progessed to judges, kings, captivity, etc. None of those subsequent forms of governance even come close to a governance of righteousness, including our great, but wobbling, democratic system. Part of that system is judicial, and part of that involves "ordinary persons" -- a jury.

So, is the concept of a jury system good? Of course. Was it better suited for an smaller, agrarian society where "time off of work," etc. was not a huge factor? Yes. Is it a difficult and cumbersome system now? Of course. Should it be done away with? No. Should it be reformed? Of course.

All that being said, Phil's critique was not some grumbing, rebellious sort of criticism. He merely colorfully and honestly described his day in jury duty. It was certainly not some violation of New Testament duty to submit to the authority of government. I mean, Phil went to jury duty. He served his time. He followed the law. Then, he returned, and made some universal observations about his experience. Nothing wrong with that.

Steve said...

Puritanicoal hit the nail on the head. For us to complain about government or judicial inefficiency is not the same thing as defying God-ordained governmental authories.

We just need to be careful that we don't assume Phil's experience is a universal phenomenon. I'm sure there are some Christians (probably not many!) who work in courtrooms across the United States, in the very difficult role of handling potential jurors, etc. who do their work in a God-glorifying manner, and who could use our prayers for wisdom in how they carry out their work.

Jenn said...


I'm not sure on what basis you make the comment that China and Saudi Arabia "don't seem to have a rampant problem :-) " when it comes to judicial systems.

Are you not aware of the many cases of citizens imprisoned in China for daring to worship Christ? For speaking out against their government?

My foster father had the opportunity some years ago to do regular consulting work in Suadi Arabia. He was aware of soldiers who were forced to roll across the hot sand without shirts on for minor offenses. Women who were beheaded in public for defying their husbands. A group of Phillipino nurses who were "caught" attending a mixed gender party who were sentenced to being flogged.

Are these the types of societies you would like to live in?


Away From The Brink said...

I have done jury duty twice; probably out of about six times being called.

Did both times in Ventura County, at the courthouse on Victoria Ave. One was a criminal case, and the other a civil case. We convicted the guy in the criminal case, and acquited the guy (a doctor) in the civil case.

Both experiences were real eye-openers.

Bar L. said...

I always get called to jury duty! But here in CA you should be able to avoid being selected simply by stating that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. It's sad, but true.

I actually enjoy jury duty for some reason and have sat on a one case..it was fun :)

Unknown said...

Hi Phil,

Sorry I did not make my self more clear, I was not trying to tie the legitimacy of democracy to our judicial system. In my zeal to keep Mr. Churchill’s quote fully intact, but yet attempt to make my point, I believe I unfortunately muddled the very point I was trying to make, which is this:

Many forms of judicial systems have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that our judicial system is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that our judicial system is the worst form of law except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

I also think us Christians do have a duty to support our system, jury duty and all, despite the flaws you pointed out on your blog. That being said, my experience with jury duty was thoroughly enjoyable, but then again I am not getting called every year to serve (PA has laws against that), and I have been blessed with being employed by employers who share the civic duty notion and continue to pay me even though I am sitting on a jury.

Lastly, I certainly agree with you that scripture does condemn all injustice, both the truly innocent party that was framed by the powers that be and the guilty that manipulates our system and gets off. However, no where do I argue that this is serving as some sort of a balancing out of justice. Each case should be decided solely on the basis of truth and guilt of the parties involved. Unfortunately in many respects it has become a game to find a way to get a fully guilty party off through the manipulation of the system. My point is, despite this flaw, it is what we have, and I believe God can still work His way through this system if we choose to be used by Him.

I like your subtle use of the word “trick” to both undermine my point but like it at the same time ..how of lawyerly of you;)

{{{Candleman the “trickster”}}}

Phil Johnson said...

Oddly enough, I meant my "Jury Duty" post to be nothing more than a lighthearted and amusing account of my day in court. I didn't anticipate that it would generate controversy, much less provoke so many responses.

To tie up a couple of looose ends:

1. My negative assessment of the American judicial system is not meant as criticism of the way the machinery of American justice is designed to work. I think the problem stems from a century of rogue judges in some of our highest courts.

2. I am of course not suggesting that everyone in our legal system is corrupt, nor am I denying that you can be a good and godly Christian while fulfilling the vocation of a judge or attorney.

Remember, my condemnation of Christian publishing industry has been far more harsh than anything I said about the legal system. Yet no one ever suggested I was trying to portray everyone in Christian publishing as corrupt. Since I'm a 30-year veteran of Christian publishing, I hope no one imagined I was saying everyone in the industry is evil.

The same exact principle applies to judges and attorneys. There are some good guys in the system. They just don't seem to have the upper hand at the moment.

jane said...

Phil, welcome to the blogosphere! I am the queen of unintentional controversies. But I think that happens to those of us who most of the rest of the time are purpose driven muckrakers ;)

Just wanted to add that speaking of Satanism (though I doubt that guy is one since I think that's just a mockery of the trendy "Jesus is my homeboy" t-shirt) and technical difficulties, my powerbook is being repaired (for amnesia--memory issues--at the young age of six months) but when we moved a couple of months ago, on a really horrible icky day when I was still waiting for my DSL connection to work, I looked at the available wireless network connections (besides mine which was down) and it displayed one that was called "Satan's Portal." Totally freaked me out. Every so often I look again at the available connections and sometimes that one is there. I think the person just named it that so no one would hack into his connection. But it still bugs me knowing someone in my neighborhood thinks that way...

Gordon said...

My church is adopting Robert Lewis' church model based upon is book "The Irresistible Influence." They finished the first year of Men's Fraternity which is one of the components of his model. It appears to be a typical seeker-targeted program. I have been unable to find a critique of him, his book or this specific program. Can anyone direct me to a website, book, or magazine article?

Renee said...

I know what systems they have there and I know what system we have here. It was sarcasm based on the fact that OUR jusicial system does not believe in punishment for the crime anymore.