I’ve Been Asked to Report for Jury Duty

by Danny Zawacki

For the first time in my life, I’ve been selected for civic duty. A month or so ago, I received a piece of mail asking me to go online and fill in my information as I was in a pool for jury duty. I filled it out and thought nothing of it. I don’t fear jury duty (though it may come from lack of experience with it). Many people seem to dread it as it is the worst thing in the world. I can only imagine how they would feel if they did not get a jury during their trials. What if they were flat-out denied their right to defend their case?

Last week, I received a second piece of mail stating that I must report for jury duty and I was given all my information on how to report and whatnot. I really thought little of it, as it’s a part of being an American citizen. In fact, I was a little excited by the thought of it. As a writer and a reader, I love collecting stories. A trial could be a good story. And when I double-checked the dates I needed to report, I saw I needed to report for up to three weeks. It really could be a good story. Someone must have done something bad to have a three-week trial scheduled. Oh the drama! The intrigue!

However, once I started announcing what I needed to do, the naysayers started pouring out of the woodwork. Everyone was offering me ways to get out of it. Get out of it? The thought never really crossed my mind, in all honesty. What I did think was, maybe I wouldn’t get picked. Then I’d only get to sit through a shorter trial that week. I wouldn’t need to dedicate three weeks of my time (a paltry sum, if you ask me) to civic duty. But get out of it all together, I don’t think that is really in my hands.

For me, this is a sense of duty (it’s in the name). It’s not something to avoid. Jury duty is something to be embraced because it screams nothing more to me than being American. I don’t think that people who avoid jury duty like the plague are less American, though, I just think they have a different meaning about what that means. Someday, I hope they learn my meaning of it.

The one qualm I have with jury duty are my wages. I get paid $20/day of duty along with $0.51/mile of travel. That’s what the county in Wisconsin where I must report pays. It’s not, by any means, a living wage. Nor is it anywhere near what I would make at work. The thought of it just makes me sad as I reflect on how terrible of a year this is turning out to be for me financially. There always seems to be something else around the corner, just waiting to loot my paychecks. All I really want, all I’ve really wanted since I started working in 2012, is to pay off all my loans as soon as I can so I can build a simpler and bill free life. 2014 is really testing my patience, financially.

When I alerted my bosses of my civic duty, they too offered me ideas to get out of it. Legally, they can’t prevent me from going but I can tell they’d prefer to have me here. What I haven’t had answered yet, however, is will I get paid while I’m obligated to be somewhere else? The state of Wisconsin does not require employers to pay their employees (even if they have a salary as I do). I understand both sides of the story–why should I be paid if I’m not working, but why should I lose wages when I have to do something I didn’t offer to do–but that doesn’t make the thought of three weeks of lost wages any better. And I know I haven’t been told one way or another if I’ll get paid or not, but my mind fears for the worst so I’m ready for it and it’s really eating away at me now.

Pay or no pay, a pain in the butt or an interesting story, I am really looking forward to jury duty. Like I said before, it makes me an American and I really don’t have any problem with that.