I’m going to depart from my usual blather today. What I’m going to do is point out some ways in which local government jurisdictions, specifically Tulare County here in California, are using and/or abusing the elderly when it comes to jury service. I’m curious as to whether other local jurisdictions in California and in other states engage in these same kinds of practices.
My own experience with the Tulare County Court System has not been a happy one when it comes to the “trial by a jury of his peers” language and the way it has been interpreted here. To summarize, Tulare County had long operated under a system whereby their pool of potential jurors is taken directly from the voter registration lists. Any registered voter below the cutoff age of 68 was placed in a jury pool database and subject to summons at regular intervals. Over the years, more and more younger voters with family and job obligations were being exempted from serving on juries which meant that more and more elderly people were winding up sitting in the box. That sounds OK so far I know. After all, with their kids grown and gone and given the fact that they are usually retired or disabled, they have no demands on their time that might mitigate their availability and interfere with the county being able to follow the letter of the law.
So one thing an elderly registered voter can definitely count on… at least here in Tulare County… is that he or she WILL eventually get a jury summons in the mail similar to the one I have here in front of me now. It’s certainly not the first one I’ve ever had and indeed, the rather large number of them I have amassed over the past few years is one of the factors prompting this post. Starting about 6-7 years ago, and continuing right up until I reached the cutoff age, I got one every six months, regular as clockwork because every time I got one my doctor informed these people that I was physically unable to serve on a jury.
That was good for six months and on the day that six months was up their flipping computer would mail me another summons. It became a routine as they would send me the letter and my doctor would tell them once again why I couldn’t do it. I was glad when I finally turned 68 and the damned things quit coming but I should have known, any time the bureaucracy is involved, their number one objective is going to be to %$#k up a good thing for someone and in my case they did it by hiking the cutoff age up to 70 this year and since I’m three months shy of that age, guess what I found in my mailbox yesterday? Yup.
Here’s how it works. To be excused for medical reasons anyone under the age of 68 has to get a form filled out by their doctor and returned to the court system X number of days prior to the date of appearance. The fact that this isn’t always feasible notwithstanding, if you don’t get this form filled out and returned by the due date and then don’t show up on the appointed day you are subject to o various “penalties as prescribed by law” because according to whatever bureaucratic bible they they get their daily dose of salts from, “it is the duty of every citizen to serve when called upon“.”.
In the first place no, it is NOT the “duty” of every citizen. This is whole idea of using voter lists is stupid in the first place because probably at least half the people in the county aren’t registered and are therefore exempted from the “duty” the rest of us have. And it’s definitely not the duty of citizens who are elderly and infirm, often physically handicapped and who often lack the funds to pay for their food and medicine to be forced out of their homes and into a situation that may be detrimental to their health and safety because younger and more able bodied citizens are too damned important or busy to do THEIR duty.
I know there are some that will disagree with that but the simple fact is that the elderly in this country, this state and especially this county are treated like crap by those those same self serving pontificating little pricks who have the damned gall to claim that we have a “duty” to either show up periodically and go through one of their little dog and pony shows in the mockery our court system has become or be subjected to “penalties as prescribed by law”.
And the worst part of the whole damned thing is that quite often… at least in this county’s court system… prospective jurors are treated worse than the people awaiting trial. The first thing you have to do to avoid those “penalties” mentioned so ambiguously in the red outlined box under the big red letters spelling out “Jury Service Instructions” is show up at the jury assembly room at sometime prior to 8:15 A fracking M on the appointed morning. I am taking someone else’s word for that prior to 8:15 time frame because I can’t find any mention of a time on this thing they sent me which may be due to the fact that I no longer see as well as I used to and can’t afford new glasses but they do make sure to inform me that by God, it’s my DUTY to be there. So far, no big deal unless… due to your physical disabilities… you no longer have a driver’s license at which point you’d better be hoping that a city bus will get you out there on time.
Now again, I’m just repeating what I’ve been told by people who have served on juries recently because I haven’t which is what has me wondering about how it is where you live. The county says it will make “reasonable” accommodations for the handicapped but you have to call them to find out what they consider reasonable or what they consider handicapped. In my case reasonable accommodation would require my Oxygen concentrator and nebulizer and access to a bathroom every fifteen minutes or so as a result of a couple of the meds I take to remove excess fluids from my lower body and around my lungs and heart. Also because of these meds I become dehydrated at the drop of a hat if I’m not guzzling water regularly and if I sit for for prolonged periods the edema causes my legs to swell hugely, increasing the possibility of clots.
So just between the need to have my breathing equipment plugged in, having to stand and move around to keep the circulation up in my lower extremities and needing ready access to a bathroom and water supply, It’s pretty damned obvious that I’m not going to be actually serving on any juries during the year or so I have left and I’m not even done describing all my ailments yet. I have plenty more reasons where those came from. These people know that. My doctors had been telling them that every six months for several years before I made it to 68 and finally got off their damned list but once again I had to get up and walk to the clinic today… where I had the dubious honor of being the subject of their first Code Blue call and then, after my little near death experience, talking my way out of an ambulance ride I couldn’t afford and turning around and walking home again but that’s another story… and of course Medicare had to pay for another doctor visit, just so those misprogrammed nitwits in the courthouse could indulge their anal retentiveness and force me through the damned hoops one last time for no reason other than that their computer had noticed that I was once again not old enough to be left alone. I suppose I should be grateful that this one happened at a medical clinic instead of the jury assembly room at the courthouse although had I not received the stupid summons I wouldn’t have walked all the way to the clinic which is what brought on the attack in the first place.
I’m also told that the potential jurors in the assembly room, which I suppose could number in the low to middle tens, only get one fifteen minute break and that since the tiny little walkup sandwich joint in the basement of the courthouse offers no possibility you’re going to get anything served in time to eat it and be back in fifteen minutes (one lady told me she didn’t think it was even there anymore) and you’re not allowed to take any food or drink in with you, you’re pretty much out of luck regarding anything to eat or drink unless you can crap hot dogs and pee lemonade.
There are other things that for some people go beyond the “hardship” the county admits to causing on their little form here and until the people running the joint finally get it into their heads that they also have a duty… the duty to use some level of common sense and show a little regard for circumstances not included in their basic programming when dealing with the people they’re supposed to serving… then no, I have no obligation to put myself in any kind of harm’s way again because they can only do what their flipping computers tell them they can do. From now on, it’s gonna be ME telling them where they can put their flipping computers.