Today on Alphabet City: Jon Paul enjoys a bit of civic duty
I’m not ashamed to admit it—I’m a Perry Mason Queen. That’s right. I love jury duty. Yep, I love everything about it. Even the NY State Juror Orientation video gives me chills—it starts with a bad recreation of the middles ages “trial by water,” that transitions into a series of black and white clips of classic Perry Mason trial moments, ending with a sexy Diane Sawyer wryly observing that courtrooms have provided tons of material for media and entertainment shows.
Until I moved to Alphabet City, I missed out on this enormous privilege and responsibility bestowed on American citizens. Most people view it as a huge irritation in their life. But as the son of a famous federal judge, I always looked on the judicial system as central part of our freedom—just one that I didn’t get to participate in.
The problem was that our family pretty much knew every Texas judge and attorney around. That meant almost automatic disqualification from jury service. When I turned 18, I remember being so excited when I received that first jury summons and headed to the Dallas County Courthouse with my official slip. I proudly produced it for the court clerk, who glanced at my name, scrawled “Excused” in big cursive letters, and laughed.
“Honey, why didn’t you call first? There’s no point in Judge Buchmeyer’s son showin’ up!”
Thankfully, my Alphabet City life has given me the anonymity necessary to fully participate in America’s judicial system. And now I’ve now been called for duty three times. I smile when my fellow would-be jurors hope to get out of service by claiming there’s no way they could be impartial. I’ve got other concerns—how much to reveal about my legal background so that I don’t get disqualified.
But it’s not like they make it easy to enjoy our civic duty here in NYC. The buildings are old with crumbling corridors and badly lit rooms. The toilets smell and the optimistically named “juror lunch room” is just the end of a hallway with a broken conference table and an all-soda vending machine (instead head to the Whole Foods Market in Tribeca for a quick healthy meal).
Nonetheless, I love it. I love the cross section of New York characters whose varied life experiences are the foundation of our justice system. The only thing I dislike? Waiting six years for my next opportunity to serve. I know, I’m a Perry Mason Queen if ever there was one.