Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jury Duty For Life?

We recently took a last minute trip to go visit my family in Washington. My mom has recently been called to jury duty, and as a result, she has to call in every evening to see if she has to go in to serve the next day.

I was laughing with her about the time that the state of Washington called me to jury duty when I was living in Italy... at the time I hadn't lived, voted, or held a driver's license in the state for over 10 years.

She mentioned that they once again called me to jury duty... at this point I haven't lived, voted, or held a driver's license in this state for 15 years.

Whenever they call me to jury duty, she has to call the jury duty people and tell them that I haven't lived in this state in over a decade, that I live in Arizona now, and can not serve on a jury here.

Which is fine... except what happens when she's not around any more to call up the jury duty guys to tell them I'm not around?

It seems as if the powers that be in Washington State never cull their jury duty rolls, and if you lived in this state once upon a time, they can call you up for jury duty indefinitely, even if you haven't lived in this state for decades.

Skipping out on jury duty is a serious offense... or so I've been led to believe. Even though I don't live here, and don't intend to live here again, I still do visit every once in a while. My brother lives here. My niece lives here. Of course, my parents live here as well. Right now, my mom takes care of my jury duty excuses, but it's not likely that she'll be around 50 years from now to handle them for me. I can just imagine this scenario... 40 years from now, I'm visiting my brother and family in Washington State. I'm driving a car and get pulled over for speeding...

Police officer: Let me see your license

Me: here you go (hand him my license)

(Police officer goes back to check his database. Comes back.)

Police officer: Did you know that there is a warrant out for your arrest? It seems that you skipped out on jury duty 5 years ago.

Me: But I haven't even lived in this state in 55 years!

Police officer: That's not my concern. I'm going to have to take you in.

Perhaps that is a ridiculous scenario... is it? I haven't lived in this state in over 15 years and I'm still getting jury duty notices, should I have any expectation that it will ever end? Since I left this country, I have held driver's licenses and voted in two different states, and I have lived in 5 states and 2 different countries. Does this state expect you to be a juror for life if you live here for any amount of time?

My mom takes care of my jury duty summons right now, but I have to wonder about all the other people who have lived in this state once upon a time, that don't have any relatives left that can take care of any jury duty notices. There have to be thousands of people that once lived and voted here, that have moved away and don't have relatives at their former address to care for things. What happens to them when they get jury summons and don't show up? They may return for a vacation or to visit friends... what happens when one of them gets caught for skipping a jury summons that they have no knowledge of because they lived out of state at the time?

The jury people told my mom that I have to write to them personally to get taken off the jury rolls. Who to write to, I don't know... and how was I supposed to know anyway that I was supposed to write to someone to get taken off the jury rolls? It's not like they tell you these things when you register to vote or get a driver's license... is there any fine print that says "should you ever decide to move, please write to xxxxx to be removed from the jury rolls, or we may call you up to serve for all eternity." I never saw anything like that.

I bet that they are still calling up dead people to serve on juries here. My grandma died in 1990... perhaps she is still getting jury summons. That was only 17 years ago... probably.

Makes me wonder if they are sending jury summons to me in my old addresses in California. I was registered to vote in two different counties there. I could be getting called up for trials in Los Angeles County and San Diego County all the time and not even know about it. I last lived there about 8 years ago, so anything is possible.

So anyway... my thought for the day is... if you are someone in charge of calling up people for a jury... if they haven't lived in the state in say... 5 years or so... and are living and voting somewhere else... perhaps you should stop trying to get them to serve on juries? And maybe double check to see if the people that died 5 years or more are taken off as well. If you are in Washington state, there is a death index that is updated regularly that can help you take the dead people off your rolls. And please stop calling me to jury duty when I haven't lived in your state in 15 years! Not unless you're willing to spring for plane tickets.

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