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Monday, January 11, 2010

Doing Time

Remember this?

Fortunately, a settlement was reached in that case, and I was notified the night before that my services would not be needed. (Hooray for settlements!)

When I got back from Hawaii, I found in our mail a letter requesting me to show up for jury duty selection to ANOTHER case, this time for a trial lasting four days. With no vacation scheduled, I was kind of looking forward to having the experience as juror. I filled out the pre-interview questionnaire and sent it back to the court.

The trial was a few weeks away, but meanwhile, I was well into my second trimester and was not experiencing the surge of energy that I had experienced in my last pregnancy. My body grew wearier. Sleep became elusive. Swelling and burning daily afflicted my legs. Things weren't looking or feeling good to be sitting for long periods of time for four straight days.

I called the day before the trial and told the clerk I was concerned about my ability to serve considering some of my symptoms. He told me to show up anyway. That night, I had the worst (lack of) sleep in a long time. I became sick, congested; I couldn't breathe, couldn't sleep. By the time my alarm went off at 6am, I knew I was not going to be able to make it to the courthouse. I felt horrible and had gotten a total of 3 hours of sleep here and there. David called the clerk's office early in the morning and left a voicemail stating I would not be able to come in.

We thought everything was fine until a couple weeks ago when I received an order from the court to show up and explain my absence. The penalty for failing to excuse my absence would result in a $1000 fine and/or 30 days in jail. Failure to show up to this appointment would result in a warrant being issued and my being picked up by a sheriff and brought before the judge. Well, hello.

Dave joked and joked about my spending time in jail and enthusiastically suggested I birth our child in jail so our medical expenses would be taken care of. I wasn't so worried about jail because (1) I am obviously pregnant and (2) it would make for a great story! I was concerned about paying $1000 from our baby fund.

Today, was my appointment, and I actually felt pretty calm. David, on the other hand, was wound tight. "We're late!" he exclaimed an hour prior. He hurriedly got the baby in her carseat while I touched up my lip gloss. He was tense the entire drive there, elbows locked straight as he held the steering wheel.

We dropped the baby off at my sister's home, and Dave then drove me to the courthouse with 5 minutes to spare. Except when we got into the building, he realized we were NOT at the courthouse. We were at some other government building and the courthouse was 3 blocks away.

I sensed David freaking out and then trying to stifle his freaking out as his pregnant wife with the full bladder moved way too slowly back to the car in the parking lot. By the time we got to the correct building and through security, we both had to use the facilities. We entered the courtroom a few minutes late, found a place to sit, and waited for the judge to enter the room.

I looked around. There were about 40-50 other people there, not counting staff and inmates. Not to say that everyone there fit into one demographic, but... everyone I saw in the benches seemed to... fit... into... one demographic. I first found it amusing and then sad. Whoever said education and income level does not play into the higher risk of meeting up with the wrong side of the law hasn't yet been to a courtroom.

I looked at the collection of inmates at the front of the room. Man, I so wished I had a camera with me. I reached for my pocket and remembered that I had left my cell phone in the car as instructed by the signs at the security check point.

"Lots of people not looking happy to be here," I commented. Dave was quiet. I realized I was talking to one of them.

I looked at the gray room. Gray walls. Gray suits on public defenders. Gray lights humming above. I leaned against Dave and whispered "this is nothing like 'Night Court'." Where were the flamboyant hookers? Where was Bull?

Dave did not think this was funny.

"This is not the time to be making jokes," he whispered tersely. "If you get up there and something seems funny to you, do NOT say it."

"Relax," I said.

"This is not the time to make funny comments," he urged. The guy was truly nervous. And I thought that was funny.

A bailiff called my name to see if I was present, and David raised his hand.

"Relax," I whispered.

The judge entered the room.

"All rise." I pulled on the bench in front of me to get my pregnant body up, but by the time I was on my feet , the bailiff had already said, "you may all be seated" and the room was down. I chuckled while I maneuvered my body back down. Dave was being no fun.

My name was called. I was first. (That's right, punks!)

I approached the podium and waited to be addressed.

"You are here because you failed to show up for jury duty on December 15th. Do you have a reason for your absence?" asked the judge.

"Yes," I replied.

"What is it?"

This is the part where I'm sure David held his breath. He had attempted to practice my response at home in the weeks prior. I was usually making dinner or cleaning the kitchen. Most of the time, my response to his questioning was me swinging my pointer finger up into the air and exclaiming, "Up yours!"

David had chuckled the first time I did it but not so much on the subsequent practices. He would get a serious face, state an appropriate response and have me repeat it. I would repeat it, pause, and then "Up yours!"

"Adhis, you can't say that in court."

"I know, I know." I'd put on my serious face and then say, 'Your Honor... ... ... up yours!"

I was not in court; I was in the kitchen cleaning up the table.

So, here I was, in front of the judge at the beginning of his afternoon session being asked what my excuse was. Out of habit, my pointer finger extended and swung up. I caught it on the microphone and pretended to adjust it to my height.

"I was pregnant and sick. I am still pregnant but not as sick."

"Did you inform the court?"

"Yes. Actually, my husband called that day."

The judge's countenance changed and then he said, "Oh, that's right." He looked at a bailiff who said, "Her husband did call but he didn't leave a phone number so (blah blah blah) the 1st."

Wait a minute, what?

The judge turned to me again. "A court cannot operate without jurors. It is not fair for the other 35 people who showed up for selection that day. I order you to 8 hours of community service."


"Pregnancy is not an excuse."

"What about a crappy pregnancy?" I said. That comment was more in alignment with what David feared I would do, so I left it at that.

Before the judge dismissed me, I repeated to him what I thought he had said. He added that my name would be thrown back into the jury pool, and our little chat was over. A bailiff handed me a sheet with suggestions for service, and I went back to the bench to collect my coat and my husband.

Once out of the courtroom, I laughed. I had received community service because my husband forgot to leave our phone number. I kidded him on it.

"Were you trying to get rid of me for 30 days?"

Poor guy. He was still tense. Super tense. He was tense on the drive to pick up our daughter from my sister's house. "This is not funny," he would repeat.

There you have it. I have been ordered 8 hours of community service on the honor system to any service I choose.

If you see a cute little pregnant woman on the side of the road wearing a neon orange vest, remember to honk and wave. And if you feel so inclined, toss her a sandwich.


Kat said...

Wahoo! At least you don't have to go to jail. :) I love your comment about making the finger look like you were moving the microphone. Hey, if you need community service ideas, Kids On The Move where Brinley has respite, is always looking for volunteers to watch kids while their parents go to help classes during the day. Let me know if you're interested, and I can get you phone numbers.

Heather said...

you could come clean my house, is that community enough? I will invite the community in if that helps qualify us! GREAT story, one of my favorites by far.

Trevor said...

Heather gets 4 hours and I get the other 4. Actually if you just do 2 I will report it as 4 (wink wink).

Kristen said...

I hope you learned your lesson.

Adhis said...

Yeah- no more getting pregnant!