Wednesday, July 11, 2007


Summer's a busy time, with vacations and speaking engagements lined up, so when I got the jury summons I thought twice. Should I call and ask for the date to be rescheduled?

On the one hand, the site listed was only a few miles from my house. The next time I might be ordered to go somewhere maybe 50 miles away.

Cook County is on the one day, one trial system. If I were not called to serve the day of the summons, I'd be home free for a year. The catch was if I were called to actually serve on a trial, I'd need to stay with the trial until it ended. Could I take that chance?

I did. I appeared yesterday at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse already wishing I had my cell phone with me. That was a double no-no, being not only a cell phone but also a camera - two items forbidden. I took off my watch, put it in my purse as instructed and threw it all on the conveyor belt for the security check.

After an escalator ride upstairs, I found the jury room, but it was still locked. While waiting for it to open, I was joined by other jurors. I struck up a conversation with two of the other ladies. With nothing better to do, we spent the time leaning over the railing and watching the security check down below. Most people passed through without incident. There were exceptions. One man forgot to remove his belt. Another brought too many items which sent the alarm off and he had to leave and put them in his car. A woman came in with a baby carrier and the carrier was given a thorough search.

Finally the jury room door opened. I passed over my jury summons, then reached inside a jar for a panel number. With that done, I quickly glanced around the room, looking for a good spot. I'd had to appear for jury duty once before but not at the same location, so wasn't familiar with the layout.

Instead of choosing a chair like many of the others did, I headed for one of the small tables in the back, right next to an electrical outlet. I'd brought my computer with me and intended to spend some quality time editing my upcoming book, Girl of My Dreams, and didn't want the battery to run out - assuming I wouldn't be called to serve on a jury.

After half an hour we were herded over to the seating section facing the monitor and were treated to a basic instructional video about how the court system worked. It was the same video I'd seen the last time I'd served. I smiled as once again I recognized my friend, Ruth Kaufman, an actress, fellow Chicago-North RWA Chapter member and real life attorney posing as an attorney on the tape.

Afterwards we received general instructions on what to expect. In the meantime, we could watch television if we wished. I glanced at the news on the screen, noticed that 300 prosecutors had taken the day off to attend the county board meeting to protest the delay in overdue raises. This was a good sign. If most of them were over there, they wouldn't be at the Rolling Meadows Courthouse.

I could only hope that was the case. In the meantime, I went back to my little table and got to work on my manuscript. I noticed a few ladies nearby reading books. One of them was by Janet Evanovich. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I just happened to have bookmarks with me describing my current mystery, Two Wrongs.

I dug into my purse and approached them. Speaking quietly I asked, "Would you like a bookmark?" Surprised, they accepted and even looked over my blurbs on the back.

After another hour, I took a break from my manuscript to join the two friends I'd made before the doors had opened. After I explained what I'd been doing at the back table, it was only natural to also hand them bookmarks.

We were allowed to leave the premises for lunch, so all three of us headed across the street to the Track Side Restaurant, where I enjoyed not only a great meal, but also a wonderful conversation with two people I'd not known the day before. I even put $2.00 down on the First Race at Fairmont. The odds were huge, so if I won, it would be about $500.00. I didn't, but it was fun anyway.

We headed back. We waited one more long hour. If we were not called by 2:30 we'd be free.
2:30 finally came. It was over!

My gamble had paid off. Not only would I not be called back for another year, but I'd also accomplished much on my jury duty day. I could have sat by myself, tried to read a book and been bored, but instead I made some wonderful friends, did some needed manuscripted editing and passed out promo. Another day in the life of a citizen and author.

Morgan Mandel

1 comment:

Norm Cowie said...

Lucky you. I'm not allowed to serve on juries. I spend too much time in court already ...shaddup! ... as a plaintiff.

It is fun to sit in on trials though and watch the cases.