Jury Duty + Startup = Oil + Water

September 9, 2009

I had to report for jury duty today and I was joking on Twitter that the best outcome from this civic duty would be meeting a girl.  When I got to the jury meeting room I pretty quickly realized that all the optimism in the world wasn’t going to do much for me in this case.  What I hadn’t realized (and wouldn’t for another hour or so) was that my view of the best outcome was completely off.

So sitting in a big room with about 300 other folks I waited to hear my name called.  I was quite relieved when I was in the first batch of 70 people to be called into the court room.  This meant that I wouldn’t have to listen to the two guys in front of me talk about boxing and other macho crap anymore.  No, now I could stand in a hallway and watch prisoners in dayglow orange jumpsuits being marshaled around and wonder what their state of mind was before they got those new outfits as well as what it is now that they have them.  Pretty depressing.

As we were called into the court room all 70 of us eventually sat down and the judge started giving us instructions.  He also introduced us to the lawyers as well as the defendant.  The defendant was a middle aged guy that looked like he was being prosecuted for money laundering or a similar crime.  I didn’t think too much about it until the judge informed us that he was being charged with rape, possession of a weapon and a dozen other crimes that were listed too quickly to comprehend.  The central word in my head… shit.

I was expecting to potentially serve on a simpler case with lesser charges, not one where the defendant could end up spending the rest of his life in prison.  I’ve watched enough Law & Order episodes to know that prosecuting a rape is not a simple process so when the judge informed us that the trial was scheduled to last 3-4 weeks, I wasn’t surprised, I was horrified.

I was horrified not because of what this man was accused of or by what happened to the victim, but what it would mean to my startup.  These extremely selfish feelings are ones that I am not proud of but also can’t deny.  The thought of not making any progress for a month while continuing to burn my savings was more frightful than recent announcements from a quasi competitor.  But wait, what are these “hardships” that the judge is describing?

Turns out that there are five classifications of hardships that are reasons for being excused from jury duty, one of them being money.  I just had to fill out a form making a case for the financial burden that jury duty would place on me and the judge would review it and decide if I could be excused.  I haven’t focused that hard on making my writing legible since drafting class in high school.  As the hardships were being reviewed in the back, the deputy would bring them out in small batches and inform us of the judges decision.

I don’t have any problems paying attention and generally can always find something to keep myself entertained, but not in this case.  I needed something to pass the time but there was nothing.  I couldn’t even find much to count… 37 clipboards in front of me, 14 chairs in the jury box (odd), one nervous defendant who had to go to the bathroom twice and one very angry man who’s pleads to be excused were revoked (coincidentally I saw this same man yelling at the security folks earlier).  Then my name is called and I couldn’t reply with “here” fast enough… “you’re excused”.

Whew!  I walked out of that court room with such a huge smile on my face that I must have looked like I was just acquitted of a crime.  While I would have enjoyed serving my civic duty, it really would have killed me at this time in my life.  So it turns out that in this case being excused was an even better outcome than meeting a girl.  I’ll just have to keep looking for more ways to meet women, hopefully ones that aren’t so threatening to my future.

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