When I get summoned to jury service, I usually get assigned to "the big kahuna" - what I call the Los Angeles Criminal Courts building, downtown.
So, during the week of February 19th, 2013 I found myself reporting once again.
In 2002 the Criminal Courts building was renamed to the "Clara Shortridge Foltz" building, as she was a prominent west coast attorney that first proposed the idea of a public defenders office.
But the new name doesn't really indicate the fact that - for Los Angeles County criminal affairs, this is the mother ship. As such, the building takes on an ominous look once you understand what goes on inside.
[Los Angeles Criminal Courts building.]
Compared to it's neighbors like the distinctive Los Angeles City Hall or the Walt Disney Concert Hall, its message is loud and clear: "It's all business within these walls, no fun allow inside."
[The Walt Disney Concert Hall. You park here if you’re a juror.]
A monolithic block with little ornament, it seems like it wants to hide and not bring any attention to itself. But if you've seen any news reports during the O.J. Simpson trial, the Michael Jackson trial, the Phil Spector trial or even the Robert Blake trail - the building's fame precedes itself. There's no hiding it.
Inside, the place is an ongoing craze of activity. Reporting to the 15th floor (court room 126) is both frustrating and fascinating. With all the courtrooms (around 60 as far as I could tell), lawyers and public defenders (the building also houses the Los Angles district attorneys office) and thousands of jurors along with the accused (sometimes in handcuffs), the place is always packed. Especially on Monday mornings when the new cycle of juror selection starts over.
Once you make it through the airport style security in the lobby then squeeze into one of the full elevators, the hallway outside your assigned court is often a scene in itself. Often there are multiple court administrators taking roll call at once, lost jurors wandering, witnesses huddling with council, attorneys and everyone else milling about waiting to be called into the court.
This certainly isn't your local community courthouse.
A day in the life of a typical juror can be quite boring if you're not prepared. There is much time spent waiting, so e-Readers, laptops and tablets abound. Even a few old fashioned paperbacks as well. Luckily the public wireless access is quite good, so kudos to those I.T. pros that keep the internet going for the constant crush of connections.
The jurors day is quite short. Arrive outside your courtroom at 10:30 AM. Wait for about 30 minutes to get called in by the judges assistant. Lunch is promptly at noon, a mandatory 90 minutes. Report back at 1:30 PM, then wait some more. A few more hours in the courtroom and you're dismissed right around 4:00 PM. Just in time to escape downtown before the traffic gets too nasty. Not a bad day if you can get used to the rest of the chaos.
In stark contrast to the affairs inside, just outside is Grand Park. A peaceful & quiet open space that starts (or ends) at City Hall, crosses Broadway Ave, Hill St and Grand Ave. Lots of grass, trees, a few eateries and fountains. Free Yoga class on the upper lawn on Fridays a noon. For 90 minutes each day, it's a pleasant place to spend your lunch-hour-and-a-half.
[Lunchtime at Grand park. LA City Hall in the background.]
As for the details of the case I was assigned, I will save those for when we meet up in person - preferably when there is time for some frank, adult discussion. Suffice to say, I'm glad it's over. But in 24 months, the next jury summons will be on it's way.
Ever served on a jury? Share your stories below. There are usually several every time you’re summoned.