A Social License: Part I

Occupy Portland Encampment. Early morning, first week of November 2011. image: jparadisi

I arrived at the courthouse shortly before 8 am. There was a long line of people standing on the sidewalk in the frosty morning air of 32° F.

“Is this the line for jury duty?” I asked the man standing in front of me.

“Can’t you tell by our smiling faces?”

Three weeks ago, I reported for jury duty, the first time in my life. In order to appear, I had to take the day off from work at the oncology clinic.

Across the street, Lownsdale and Chapman squares were crowded with tents and makeshift shelters of the Occupy Portland movement. I noticed that no one was up yet at the encampment. It must have been a cold night for the protestors.

Slowly, the line passed through the security checkpoint. I placed my tote bag on the x-ray scanner conveyor, and then I set off the metal detector passing through it, so I removed my belt and shoes, placing them on the conveyor too. The third time, I walked through without setting off the alarms. “This is just like going through the airport,” I remarked to the woman behind me. “Only, I’m not in Maui when it’s over.” We both laughed.

In a large room crowded with 161 other people, I settled into a black vinyl chair, wishing I’d brought a respiratory mask, because of all of the sniffling and coughing in close proximity. Ah, humanity!

At 10:30, my name was called, and I joined over a dozen people taking the elevator to the 5th floor. We entered a courtroom into the presence of a judge, the defendants, their lawyer, the plaintiff and her lawyer. We filled the pew-like benches and the jury box. The judge explained the process of selection.

I was confident I would not be selected. A lawyer once told me they never choose nurses or doctors for juries, because we are motivated by rule of law. In our professions, we follow policy and procedure, tend to interpret the law as policy: if you violate the policy or law, you are guilty. Lawyers prefer more wiggle room than that.

The case concerned medical damages suffered in a car accident. I was not surprised when the plaintiff’s lawyer called me out, “Ms. Paradisi, you are a nurse. Fellow jurors often perceive nurses as experts and leaders. Are you prepared to listen thoughtfully and not guide the deliberation process with your own prejudices?”

“I am aware that people give weight to the opinions of nurses in health care matters. I know what I know. My background is oncology, and pediatrics. I am not an orthopedic doctor.”

We were excused from the courtroom while the lawyers and their clients agreed upon the jurors.

Holy Moly, I was selected as a juror!

Next: A Social License, Part II

1 Comment

Comments are closed.