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Monday, January 21, 2013

Shawn’s Experience On Federal Jury Duty

Last week I was doing Jury Duty in United States District Court. I wasn’t looking forward to it. But to my surprise it was one of the best experiences I ever had with the court system.

I had been summoned to jury service way back in 2010. By both the federal and state courts. At the same time. So I tried to serve the jury duty to get it out of the way then. But it was telephone service. That led to me being stuck in a holding pattern for 2011 and 2012, waiting for one of the two summonses to show up again and worrying about when I’d have to disrupt my writing schedule again.. Thankfully, now I’m out of that holding pattern and the jury duty albatross no longer hangs over my head. I can get back to storytelling for the next couple of years.

I had to do my service was in the Federal Courthouse on Pearl Street, not too far from the Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall train station in lower Mahattan. It’s a great place to be. Chinatown and Little Italy aren’t too far from there and Wall Street is on just a few blocks away. I had an 8:30 and got downtown around 8:15 or so.

Security at the courthouse is tight, but courteous and professional. I was in and out of the screening in less than a minute even with a long line. Having done jury duty twice at the Bronx county courthouse I’d have to say the security there is much more efficient than over there. This place ran like a machine.

The lobby on the way to the jury room is white marble and quite stylish with nice picture windows and a nice little corner detailing the history of the late former New York State Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. If you’re ever on a lunch break, check out that area. You’ll learn something about one of New York’s most influential politicians.

The Jury room itself is also nice, with wood paneling on the walls comfortable lighting for reading,  and lots of comfortable leather chairs in the waiting area. Nice and soft chairs, you could easily sit here and enjoy a nap for an hour or two while waiting for your name to be called.

The clerks there were extremely professional, courteous and downright pleasant. The brothers and sisters who worked there provided some of the best customer service I’ve ever experienced. If you want to see an example of what excellent customer service looks like, head into the Jury assembly room at the Moynihan courthouse. That’s what it looks like

In administering their duties, The clerks in the jury room were efficient and well-organized. After showing us the usual video about jury service,they quickly started calling names for cases. I got called to go upstairs for a tax evasion case.

In between court breaks, I did get so see a nice view of the skyline lower Manhattan. From one set of tall picture windows of the Moynihan courthouse you can see the Empire State building and all the skyscrapers across the New York City topography.

From the other set you can see the Freedom tower being constructed.

After spending the first day in jury selection, I didn’t get picked. I returned to the jury room where I waited, watched the food network had a cup of hot cocoa (They provide free hot beverages at the US District Court for jurors) and got a breakthrough on an Isis story that I’d been stuck on for a couple of months.

 After about another hour of waiting, I and a bunch of others were dismissed for the day. We were told by the clerks to call in Tuesday night. After a day off, I called in Tuesday night after 5 PM and was told to report for Jury Duty Wendesday.

I spent most of Tuesday writing chapters of that new Isis story and running errands.

Came back Wendesday and after filled out a juror questionnaire that morning. This was to see if people were available to spend three weeks on a trial for securities fraud. I’d love to have done it, logistics prevented me from doing so. After being out of work for four years, Shawn’s money is just too tight to spend commuting  back and forth to a courthouse and then waiting 8-10 weeks to get reimbursed. Filled out the questionnaire, handed it back and went to lunch. Returned to lunch and just relaxed.

Around 3:45 I had my name called along with a few people from Monday and was told to call Friday night. With Federal Jury duty being a two-week commitment I was crossing my fingers for two days while continuing to write chapters of that new Isis story. My service was over at 5:30 (Shawn overslept) and I quickly got back to work on that all-new Isis story.

With Jury duty over I’m feeling a lot more relaxed. A lot more creative and a lot more passionate. That summons hung over my head for two years dividing my focus and making me anxious about starting any new novel projects. I’d hate to be involved in the middle of a story and be forced to stop abruptly. I feel I may not tell the same story when I resumed work on it again. 

All being said, I had a great experience doing jury duty at federal court. If I had anything to complain about, it’s that was that we couldn’t bring cell phones or laptops into the Moynihan Courthouse like people can do at other federal courthouses. If they had Wi-fi in that jury room then it’d be perfect. The jury room was so quiet and serene I feel I could stay there for hours.

So if you ever get a blue envelope in the mail for Federal Jury Duty in New York, don’t hesitate to answer it and serve Jury Duty in the US District Court. You won’t be disappointed.


  1. what happens if you show up with a cell phone despite the prohibition ? Do they keep it for you, send you home, what ? And if they take it, can you access it at lunch ?

  2. They make you power it off and you check it into a wooden cubbyhole and give you a token. You can retrieve it at lunchtime or when you go home.