This is where I spent the last two days - the Richard J. Daley Center in downtown Chicago. The 31-story building houses over 120 court and hearing rooms as well as the city's official law library. My number came up to serve as a juror in the Cook County Circuit Court system and for the first time I was actually selected to sit on a jury.
From the introductory video we watched in the potential juror waiting room to the judge's remarks prior to and following the case, the importance of our contribution to our judicial system was emphasized. I'm glad I could play my small part but if you ask me (which no one did), if the county really wanted to do everything in its power to guarantee that jurors are alert and able to give their undivided attention to the proceedings, it would summon jurors to serve closer to their homes. I had to be at the Daley Center at 8:30 Thursday morning which meant catching a 6:51 train from home. The train ride is roughly an hour followed by a 10-15 minute walk. Friday wasn't so bad since I didn't have to get there until 9:15. But that still meant catching a 7:34 train.
Do you know how restless your sleep is when you have to wake up early? You're so anxious that you might oversleep that you keep waking up and when the time to get up actually arrives, you're exhausted. That's what happened to me Wednesday and Thursday nights. I had a flashback to my college days when in the course of taking notes during the trial I kind of nodded and my hand slipped, leaving a trail of ink from whatever word I had started to a line or two below.
Despite the minor inconveniences, however, I was glad for the overall experience. I rarely ride the train or visit the city and I enjoyed both. Walking around Chicago reminded me of time I spent in New York. (The summer before I went away to college I worked as a messenger for a law firm in Manhattan.) There was something invigorating about the fast pace and crowded streets and sidewalks. The ethnic diversity, wide selection of stores,restaurants, theaters, and other attractions made me determined to take greater advantage of our proximity to the Windy City.
Here are some other points of interest gleaned from my foray into the legal process:
- According to the judge, the U.S. is the only country that uses a jury system for civil suits.
- At least in Cook County, as a juror you can select one of the following for breakfast: a bagel, a danish, a muffin, or a donut. For lunch you can have either a sandwich or a salad but not both.
- I'm not sure if this is the case for all of the court rooms but at least in ours the words "In God We Trust" are situated on the wall directly across from the juror box and are visible to everyone seated in the room except the lawyers whose backs are turned to them. Coincidence?