I used to think that the person who pulled juries for trials was just some bored gal/guy sitting in an office tossing darts at a name board and eating bon-bons. I figured that once she/he had a bunch of names, she/he would send out summons and their job was done. She/he would then sit around with nothing to do until the next trial. Maybe take long lunches, go shopping or golfing or something. They had the power to make quite a few folks dislike them in a short period of time. It usually takes me at least a few days to get someone to dislike me. The Jury Clerk can get between 65-100+ fresh people to hate them in a day when they receive their mail.
When I became a Jury Clerk, I thought I would have that power as well. Granted my bosses told me ahead of time that it’s a high stress job and quite busy. I thought, “Ya, right. It’s such a cool job sitting around all day, they are just trying to discourage me.” I was still thinking about bon-bons and shopping during the Jury Clerk downtime. I really thought that I could just smite folks who made me mad by sending them a summons. “Oh, you cut me off in traffic! I’ll get your license plate number and it is summons time for you!” “Look at her! She took the last freebie with purchase bag. I wanted that! Jury duty for her! Ha!” “Your dog was mean to my dog at the dog park? I think you need a little summons to brighten up your day.” Mooo ha haha! Reality smacked me in the face when I realized that I don’t have that kind of power at all. I debated if I wanted to keep the job when I figured that part out. I started to realize that I didn’t get to throw darts at names, sit around eating bon-bons and read or shop during the day. I really started wondering about the job. All these things I had made up in my head about a Jury Clerk were not true? Darn it!
The reality of being a Jury Clerk is that it is a lot of work. We don’t get to throw darts at a dart board or pick people we think would be funny to get a Jury Summons. There is actually a whole process to doing it right. I won’t get into the whole thing with this post. Just kind of share the process over the next few weeks. I’m hoping it will give people a whole new appreciation of how a jury is picked.
Yellowstone County District Court sends out a Questionnaire once a year to RANDOMLY picked folks. Those people will be in that years “Jury Pool” I was told that I will receive those mail buckets the postal service uses, filled with Questionnaires. Those are then scanned and the individuals information is entered into the program that keeps track of all the lucky people names. That is a mini process of where these names come from. If you live in the area and have not filled out a Questionnaire, chances are slim to none that you will be called. There are thousands of names in this program. Next is part of a long process of how these people in the Jury pool become a prospective Juror.
When a case is ready to go to trial, a Judge makes an order. “There is to be a trial on this day and we need jurors to choose from.”, the judge says. The Judge’s Assistant hand delivers this order to the Jury Clerk, aka: Me, to execute. I will then date/time stamp this to show when I received it in my office. I make a copy of this for my files and the original is scanned and goes into something called “The Special Book” When you hear, “The Special Book”, don’t you picture one of those huge big long books covered with leather? The first time I heard the term, I was waiting for a huge sheet of parchment to be unrolled before me because the books I was thinking of are big. Alas, “The Special Book” is a file saved in my Jury program and one in a plain old manilla folder. Kind of a let down – if you ask me. I wanted a huge fancy, leather-covered book. I had quite a few misconceptions about how this whole Jury thing works. “The Special Book” was just one more to add to the list.
There are about a billion more steps to picking a Jury but I’m not going to share everything in one post. My goal with this “series” is to give people a “sneak peek” into how a Jury is picked and what the life of a Jury Clerk is like on a day-to-day basis. If I was wrong about lots of downtime, eating bon-bons and smiting people, I figure other folks must have misconceptions on how this whole process works as well. In a way we are learning how this all works together.