Yesterday, I completed my civic duties by serving for 10 days as a juror on a mental health malpractice civil trial at the Multnomah County Courthouse. MacGregor vs Kaiser Permanente. At first, I saw it as a major imposition. I haven’t worked a 9 to 5, M-F job since 2004, which is a choice I’ve made that I’m proud of, and besides, I had things to do, poetry books to edit, classes to teach, etc. I thought at least I would get a lot of poems written, as if I were in jail, with nothing to do but stare at the plaque of lady justice behind the judge. I didn’t get any poems written, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I was so extremely impressed by the lawyers, the witnesses, and the judge. To do what they do well, to do it successfully, takes such an enormous amount of dedication and study and focus, and all on the time of the court. This is a world that is not at all my world (nor do I want it to be), a world I’ve never really observed so up close.
And I was especially impressed by my fellow jurors, who I watched break down emotionally over 7 hours of deliberation to wrestle with their own personal histories and biases in order to take this decision so seriously, to choose wisely and carefully all for a roomful of suited-up, combed-hair strangers who’ve summoned us citizens to do so. I got to wear a plaid shirt and chucks and make a major decision for some suits. Anyway, I think I’m trying to tell you that, at least in this case, it’s a pretty solid system we have.