Earlier this week I spent six hours at the courthouse, listening to multiple potential jurors be dismissed and anticipating every moment that the next name called would be my own. Jury duty seemed inevitable.
Fortunately, it wasn’t – and as a freelancer, I was mightily relieved.
To be clear: I know how important jury duty is in a democracy and I do take it seriously. It would never occur to me to try and weasel out, e.g., to make up a story about how I didn’t trust lawyers and could therefore never be impartial. I’ve been called for jury duty several times and actually served once, in a robbery trial.
But the very words “jury duty” make even conventionally employed people flinch. They grouse about the hassle of parking, the boredom of waiting, the bad coffee in the jury pool room. (That is, if there even is coffee.) A much bigger potential problem, though, is the potential loss of income.
If you’re lucky, your employer will keep paying you even if you spend a day or two (or a week or two) serving on a jury. I got called in the late 1980s, when I worked at a newspaper, and my pay was not docked.
Freelancers don’t have that option. Back in 2010, when I got called to a Seattle jury pool, I sent a letter explaining my situation: How could I do interviews and research if I were in a downtown courtroom all day?
They ordered me to report anyway. And when I got there, I found people who were worse off than me.