Jury Duty in Manhattan: What to expect

4 Mar

There have been many television depictions of jury duty in New York City: Liz Lemon dressing as Princess Leia; Carrie Bradshaw watching a guy pull whole tropical fruits from a suitcase.

Hey, jury duty's really not that bad!

True, there are weirdos sitting beside you, but I have to say — even though all I did was sit there for a day without getting interviewed or much less, even picked for a jury — it wasn’t an altogether bad experience. I talked on the phone to my mom, tweeted and read my new book.

Also, I didn’t catch his name, but the court officer — the guy generally in charge of keeping impatient New Yorkers informed and not rioting — deserves a raise. He was patient, good-natured and funny throughout the day, even when people were snoring while he talked. Some of his banter:

“On the form, under ‘address,’ do not put a P.O. box. I know the apartment situation in New York City is ridiculous, but you do not reside in a box. The last time someone put down a P.O. box, they did not get paid, and they called me and used profanity. But hell, this is Manhattan. None of you are even listening to me.”

Here’s a quick-hit list of what to expect when you show up at jury duty, with a link to the city’s comprehensive FAQ at the bottom:

Am I getting paid for this? You’ll learn details once you arrive, but if your employer pays you for the days you’re away at jury duty, the answer is no. If you do not get paid time off, you are compensated to the tune of $40 per day. Not surprisingly, they do not reimburse for meals or transportation.

What’s the room like? You’ll probably be sitting a staid room with rows and rows of cushioned chairs. Thankfully, there’s enough space to get to a middle seat without brushing everyone’s legs and saying excuse me 14 times. Diane Sawyer stars in a pre-recorded video about the judicial system as people file in.

What should I bring? The area has have wifi, so bring your computer if you like. There are also rooms flanking the main area: a TV room (but it only has one channel, news) and a laptop room — “and last time I heard, five out of nine of them actually work,” the court officer said.  Power strips are also available there.

Can I leave? Yes. There’s a sign-out sheet where you can leave for up to 30 minutes to grab coffee or what have you. You can also wander in the hall (and, if you’re on a high floor, enjoy the view of downtown), as long as you’re close enough to hear any announcements coming from the main room.

When’s lunch? Typically something like 12:30 to 2 p.m. They are generous with that — just don’t come back at 4 p.m. They’ll mark you absent, send you to another building, and you’ll have to re-serve another day.

What if I just ignore my summons? “If you fail to show up and don’t have a good reason, needless to say, you shall have a, let’s say, particularly up-close and personal experience with our judicial system,” the officer said.

Here is a general FAQ.

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2 Responses to “Jury Duty in Manhattan: What to expect”

  1. TX Federal Defense Lawyer 09/07 at 5:01 am #

    Wonderful. I agree.

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