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Jury duty

I have been empaneled on a jury. Today was my day to do my civic duty and report to DC Superior Court for jury service, my first time ever, as a matter of fact. And I was selected to serve on a jury.

Moultrie Courthouse. Photo by IntangibleArts.

The trial is estimated to run through Monday. I will enter some posts during the evenings and schedule them to run during days, but most likely on a lighter schedule than you are used to.

I'll also write about the trial. However, as I'm not allowed to talk about the trial until deliberations end, you'll just have to wait until next week to read all about it.

I can make one observation: like many modernist buildings, and most likely due to modernists' stubborn refusal to put "tops" on buildings, the Moultrie Courthouse has disgusting water stains all along its top. Ugh.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


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Yes, welcome to DC. You'll be called for jury duty every two years, like clockwork. One thing I appreciate about jury duty is that I can go visit the Building Museum during lunch.

by thm on Mar 9, 2009 11:58 pm • linkreport

I have been registered to vote since I turned 18. In the 15 years since I have NEVER been called for jury duty. Guess I just slip through, but ever since I was a kid and watched old reruns of Dragnet, etc, I always wanted to be on a jury.

by Boots on Mar 10, 2009 9:19 am • linkreport

Show up dressed like Darth Vader. You'll be out in no time.

by JTS on Mar 10, 2009 9:26 am • linkreport

Hey David, why do Ruffles have ridges?

by цarьchitect on Mar 10, 2009 9:28 am • linkreport

One other (less insane) way to get out. Tell them your parents are physicians (orthopaedist or OBGYN). In the DC area, frivolous lawsuits filed against physicians are so ubiquitous that the plantiff's attorney will insist you leave and practically throw money at you to do so.

by JTS on Mar 10, 2009 9:39 am • linkreport

JTS, your 2nd option is considered perjury and you can wind up with a jury all your own. As for 1rst option, there is no law against crazy, yet.

by RJ on Mar 10, 2009 9:56 am • linkreport

Like thm said, welcome to DC. Every two years, DC Superior Court. Every two years, Federal Court (D-DC). For federal, you have a 2-week window, and you call a hotline every afternoon to see if you have to show up the next day. Last September, I got all the way to my last day before having to show up (wound up serving on a jury for two more days after that). If you're lucky, your District and federal service will be in alternating years. I'm not lucky - every two years I get jury duty in the spring and jury duty again in the late summer/early fall.

by EdTheRed on Mar 10, 2009 9:58 am • linkreport

@RJ: Isn't the first one considered contempt of court?

by Michael Perkins on Mar 10, 2009 11:47 am • linkreport

For the record, I'm kidding. Frivolous lawsuits, however, are no joke.

by JTS on Mar 10, 2009 11:50 am • linkreport

If you were the last person or second to last person to be empanelled, then you gotta ask yourself: am I an alternate? It happened to me when I served on a murder trial that lasted two plus weeks. It’s nothing like Law and Order, I found.

by Jazzy on Mar 10, 2009 12:21 pm • linkreport

The only time I was empaneled was as an alternate. Once we got through voir dire, which is tedious, the actual trial was interesting. I wish they could be more efficient about using the courtroom, though: the whole trial could have probably been done in one full day but with instructions like reporting back at 11, taking 2 hours for lunch, adjourn for the day at 4, one feels like it's moving very slowly but that the day was broken up too much to get anything else done.

But as Jazzy implies, being an alternate is awful! I was dismissed after the closing arguments and before the deliberations. It was like reading a book with the last chapter ripped out! I had been all ready to do my civic duty, but even though I got to go home earlier than the other jurors, I was really perturbed and felt like I'd just wasted a bunch of time.

by thm on Mar 10, 2009 12:53 pm • linkreport

Then your judge did not do a very good job of imparting the courtroom propaganda to you about how being an alternate is really just as important, blah blah...our judge was super thorough, tediously so (good word). Plus he was always turning on the static noise making machine. I was glad to be done with that! Every spontaneous moment was drained out of the proceedings, he made sure of that.

I called up a juror after it was all over and talked about the verdict which was a totally different one than I would have argued if I had not been an alternate.

by Jazzy on Mar 10, 2009 12:57 pm • linkreport

Can attorneys still be called as jurors in DC? In Virginia, we used to be exempt, but that was changed a while back.

by Joey on Mar 10, 2009 2:26 pm • linkreport

We're on lunch break.

Joey: Attorneys get called and even empaneled all the time because there are so many of them in DC. Plus there are more cases per capita than anywhere else, so jury duty is frequent even for lawyers.

Jazzy: Apparently here they randomly assign alternates. Therefore, we don't know who are the two alternates. I really hope it's not me as that would, like thm said, be no fun.

by David Alpert on Mar 10, 2009 2:42 pm • linkreport


As David mentioned, attorneys can indeed be called and empaneled in DC...I am living proof. Even wound up as foreperson.

by EdTheRed on Mar 10, 2009 3:06 pm • linkreport

David/Ed: That definitely makes sense, given the demographics. I feel, though, if I were a prosecutor in a criminal trial, I wouldn't want most attorneys anywhere near a jury pool, for fear they'd poison the jury on supposed "technicalities" (in the prosecutor's view), or by suggesting the option of nullification.

by Joey on Mar 10, 2009 3:28 pm • linkreport

A prosecutor who feels they have a strong case based on all admissible evidence might actually want a lawyer on the panel - especially if they think there's a chance jurors might rely on inadmissible speculation ("if he's guilty, then why didn't he X, Y, and Z?") or otherwise ignore the judge's instructions.

I would also expect that the last people to suggest jury nullification would be lawyers, since it's pretty much a violation of professional ethics to encourage nullification (don't laugh).

All that said, yeah, I was pretty surprised to end up on the panel.

by EdTheRed on Mar 10, 2009 3:41 pm • linkreport

As someone who is not a lawyer but who has served on a jury, I might welcome the chance to serve with a lawyer. As it was, I was dismayed by the number of people on the jury who were veteran jurors but somehow managed to hide their past experiences from the lawyers.

by Jazzy on Mar 10, 2009 6:09 pm • linkreport

Jury duty could be a fun escape, but for those of us who consider ourselves photo bloggers, the Moultrie court's no-camera policy means I can't take photos of the neighborhood during lunch, nor on my way to court or back home. Their policy bans not just TAKING photos during a court session, but mere POSSESSION of cameras! If a court can't trust citizens with possession of a camera... sheesh. (more at

by Michael on Mar 10, 2009 6:58 pm • linkreport

The jury waiting room at the DC courthouse might just be the 8th circle of hell. Are they still showing "The Net" on the staticy TV? Is the woman who reads off the numbers still unable to pronounce a single digit correctly? Is the room still 125 degrees in February and 40 degrees in July?

Short of actually going to the DC jail, I can't imagine a worse way to spend a day in this city.

by tomo on Mar 12, 2009 6:49 pm • linkreport

It must have gotten a lot better since then. Now, they have big modern TV screens hanging around the room, and show contemporary if not very good movies (while I was waiting it was "National Treasure"). The people read the numbers very well. There's also a business center with Wi-Fi.

by David Alpert on Mar 12, 2009 9:33 pm • linkreport

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