Here I am, Monday morning in the Milwaukee County Courthouse– a familiar time and location. But this time I am sitting in the jury assembly room with a jury summons in my hand. This is my first opportunity for jury service, and one that I am looking forward to.
We are sitting in auditorium type seating, unacquainted with one another, no one talking, all somewhat uncomfortable in these strange surroundings. A judge has welcomed and thanked us, and introduced us to our role as jurors. An instructional video shows us what the courtroom will look like, and answers questions about what will happen during our days of service. Now we wait and listen for our names to be called, with groups of 30 being announced over the loudspeaker as the remainder read, work on laptops, make cell phone calls, watch a feature length movie, or stare out the windows. We are all wondering if we will soon be called upon to decide the guilt or innocence of a person charged with homicide, whether a personal injury victim has shown negligence on the part of another driver, or whether we will soon be dismissed with thanks even though not chosen to serve on a jury panel.
I am impressed by the sense of responsibility that my fellow citizens are showing as they sit with me in this room, reflecting a respect for the system of government that serves them, and for which the taxes they will be paying this week are being spent. The judge who spoke to us made two very important points: First, this is one of the few times we get to participate in our democratic government. Second, as we lament the inconvenience that jury service poses to each of us, we should also consider that should it ever be one of us that is sitting as a defendant in a criminal case, or a party to a civil case, we should appreciate that conscientious citizens are deciding our fate.