A question of justice

Legal Grounds
Legal Grounds, near courthouse. Maywood, IL

Well, I got the letter a week or so ago saying I was a standby juror for June 27th.


So, I called the night before and, yep, I had to go in today.

It was to a courthouse in Maywood, IL – one that I’ve never been to before. I’ve had jury duty at 26th and California (lot of murder/gang trials there), as well as at the Daley Center downtown a couple (few?) times. Maywood is a bit of a haul – about 25 miles one way.

Maywood’s courthouse was pretty small – two stories and a basement (where the jury pool sat). From what the jury room foreperson detailed (what is the title?), Maywood mainly does criminal and civil lawsuits, and a good portion of the latter are settled on the day of jury selection. I guess once your back is up against the wall…

I didn’t even get to a courtroom: There were four groups; the first two groups went off in the morning. The other two – with myself included – waited until after lunch when the defendant decided on a directed verdict (judge only; no jury), so we were set free.

One of the the (many) things I found odd today was what we were told about our jury duty by the jury room foreperson (who, by the way, was great. Honest). She explained that Maywood was a small community, so they had to pull from far away to get enough for a jury pool.

Then why situate a courthouse there?

We were told in the morning that we were there for only two cases – and the jury room had approximately 80 seats, and we were at least three-quarters full.

Sixty bodies.

For a max potential of 28 bodies (12 jurors plus two alternates per trial times two trials). And, as the foreperson said, a high percentage of cases were settled sans jury. Either settled out of court, or the defendant went with a trial with a judge deciding (as was my potential trial).

Seems to be a bit of overkill, but I guess better that than reaching the end of the day needing one more body…

Certain things have changed since I last was called (about two or three years ago), at least at this facility:

  • Going through security, you have to empty all your pockets – including wallet.
  • Going through security, you have to take off your belt (with my baggy pants, that was dicey – don’t want to [accidentally] drop trou in a courthouse).
  • Cameras are still off limits, but – at least in Cook County – smart phones are allowed. (Nope, no WiFi – yet.)
  • iPads are announced as being allowed. They don’t say “tablets.”
  • If in the jury pool, you can now bring food, drink and a laptop. Not if you’re on a jury, however.

These are all pretty reasonable requests – and I’m guessing the empty all pockets request is to cut down on additional screening of metal detector fails.

All in all, this was by far the best experience I’ve ever had as a potential jurist. Everyone in charge was very low-key and pleasant, and – as I’ve mentioned – the jury room foreperson made the time as painless and informed as possible.

One odd part of the day: Before we went through security for the first time, the director there mentioned that lunch could be had at a restaurant she pointed toward, about a block from the courthouse. The jury room also supplied lists of fast food locations, but this was the only place within walking distance, so it deserved mention.

So I went to the restaurant – Legal Grounds (Coffee:Bar:Grill). Haha. Get it?

Pics embedded here, but I was surprised at how disorganized this restaurant was. I was part of the wave of jurors coming over for lunch. It was like this had never happened before. Very inefficient. To their credit, they took custom requests (no butter), but it was presented backwards: I ordered a turkey club, and they rattled off all that was on it and asked what I wanted included. It should be, “Can I have that with extra mayo?” from the customer unprompted. Their method slowed the whole process – and I’m sure a lot of courthouse customers have small windows for lunch.

And halfway through my turkey club, I realized it had no bacon.

I didn’t even ask if this was a bug or a feature – it was good, but … it’s spozed to be a club sandwich. Bippity boppity bacon!

Was a nice place, next to a river with outdoor tables overlooking same. But a train wreck if you just want food and now. On the other hand, the ice tea I got was real tea – two shots, like espresso – chilled with water added (I watched the woman make it). Very good. Maybe I was dehydrated or something, but it was excellent.

I don’t think I’ve ever said that about ice tea before.

Well, that’s that for another year.

Nothing to say

Mad Men Season 1
Starring: Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Moss, January Jones

OK, I’ll be the first to admit that I am woefully behind the curve on this one: They are currently in season five.

However, I have heard so many good things about this show – and really no knocks – that I kind of held off until I could find time to watch.

Worth the wait. A great – and somewhat complex – cut of American history (takes place around 1960). Mad Men are the Madison Avenue advertising sharks, and Hamm – as Don Draper – is one of the slickest of the bunch.

While Draper is the primary focus, this is an ensemble cast, and virtually all of the secondary characters are top shelf.

Yes, a dramatic series about ad execs, and it revolves around booze, cigarettes and unfaithfulness. The show’s probably not big in the Bible Belt.

But the best part is that I am behind the curve on this show – so I have a lot more to look forward to!

One nit to pick: What they did at the end of the season to Elizabeth Moss was, well, weird. Let’s hope season two explains same, because this one was really odd, flash for flash sake’s moment.

Otherwise, pretty solid.

All reviews

Nothing really to say right now, but I wanted to get the review of Mad Men – Season 1 out while it was still fresh in my mind.

Again – a non-network show that is just smokin’ whatever ABC/CBS/NBC has to offer.

Update 6/28/2012: I’ve now watched seasons 2 & 3 of Mad Men; have ordered season 4.

Some weak points in all seasons, but – overall – any episode is better than almost any other non-Mad Men episode that I’ve watched lately. At least network-wise.

Small TV rant

Damages – Season 1
Starring: Glenn Close, Rose Byrne, Ted Danson

I had heard many good things about this show, but when I finally watched the entire Season One (13 episodes) this past weekend, I was blown away: This is good. Unusually good.

Good actors, good concept, well filmed.

But the best part – to me – was the non-linear plot line: The pilot opens with a pretty sensational event four months into the future … and then just jumps around for the entire series.

Without giving much away, some scenes are repeated but one sees them differently depending on where you are in the series. Hard to describe, but very well done. It keeps you guessing until the end and … Season Two is (I’m guessing) foreshadowed in some weird scenes in Season One.

Glenn Close is brilliant in this – a total bitch of a top-gun lawyer – and the supporting characters are solid, as well.

I don’t know if the show creators can keep this type of WTF? for more than one season; I look forward to the next installment to see what they do.

This is one of those shows that I could write almost endlessly about – it’s that remarkable – but I’ll leave it with what I said above: Can’t wait to see Season Two.

All reviews

Why are all the really inventive TV shows on the premium channels?

Think Mad Men, Damages, Weeds* and so on.

Network TV gives us a relentless spew of reality shows (cheap to produce, like game shows – I understand that part of the equation) and such.

Yet the runaway hits – the Emmy winners (that bring in ad dollars!) – are those that are different, that take chances.

Yet the networks keep trying to find another sitcom to replace Friends (Big Bang Theory anyone??).

See my review of Damages – incredible TV.

Why isn’t there more of this?

* Update: I just tossed out those three shows in the stream of writing, but without even thinking that hard, here are other solid shows that have been/are currently on non-network channels: Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Southland, 24, The Wire, Breaking Bad, One Big Love, Six Feet Under, Cougar Town, Sons of Anarchy, Sopranos, Monk – and this is just a cursory list. What has network TV given us (besides sitcoms/reality shows)? Many flavors of the very long-in-the-tooth franchises that are Law and Order and CSI. Whoopie.