Does Palin really have jury duty?

Palin: Flailin' Failin' and probably bailin'!

Does Palin really have jury duty? Damned if I know. But if she’s telling the truth about jury duty, she’s also telling the truth about how long her schedule is affected by it: 30 days at minimum.

Palin claims she has jury duty.  As she wrote on her Facebook page about postponing the remainder of her Lower 48 bus tour,

The coming weeks are tight because civic duty calls (like most everyone else, even former governors get called up for jury duty) and I look forward to doing my part just like every other Alaskan.

Does she really have jury duty?  Damned if I know.  As anyone paying attention is aware, she’s been known to lie before.

But if she does….

Damn. As sick & tired as I am of Palin — as much as I have always thought it was a bad idea to ever let her anywhere near having any kind of power (or publicity, fergodssake) — I’m just as sick of how legitimate criticism of her gets drowned out by the kneejerk whines & complaints of anti-Palinites who are at times just as fact-challenged as she is.

Example: a reader called skippyflipjack commenting at Talking Points Memo:

It’s amazing that this prevaricator calls out the media for making things up.  Jury duty for most people takes a couple hours.  You go in (or call a phone number, in some states) and most of the time they say thanks, we don’t need you.  If they do need you you’re still more likely to be rejected by the attorney on one side or the other.  The idea that a jury summons will affect “the coming weeks” is sheer nonsense.  Absolute malarkey.  What a dishonest person.

Do some fact-checking first, skippyflipjack. Whatever the jury procedures might be in your state or locality, jury service in Alaska is governed by the rules set by the Alaska Court System.

And so here we have it from the Trial Jury Handbook of the Alaska Court System, available online for the convenience of anyone who chooses to find out the facts before waxing ill-informed in the nearest political blog’s comment section:

How long must I serve?

The time period during which you must be available to serve (called your “term of service”) depends on the size of the court location where you serve. During your term of service you may have to call in or report to court periodically. You may not have to call in every day, but you must call on the days you are directed to do so.

In Anchorage, where the population is large and many trials are held each day, the term of service is either 5 consecutive days or, if you are selected to serve on a jury, the length of the trial.

In other courts, your term of service is either 30 days, 90 days or 1 year depending on the population of the area. In these courts, you may have to call in several days each month, and you may be selected to serve on more than one trial. The most days you might actually have to be present in court is 30 per year. However, you must complete any trial for which you are selected to serve as a juror regardless of how long the trial lasts.

I’ve only ever served in Anchorage, so my term of service has never been for longer than five days. (I’ve never been selected to actually sit on a jury, or it would have been longer.)  Palin would be more likely to serve in Palmer — about 15 miles from her home in Wasilla — where the Alaska Court System has both Superior and District courts.

So if she’s telling the truth about having jury duty, she’s also telling the truth about about how long her schedule is affected by it: 30 days at minimum.

Here’s how it works:

  1. We’re informed several weeks in advance by mail that we have jury service and when our service is scheduled.
  2. During our week (in Anchorage) or longer period (elsewhere) of jury service, we must call the jury clerk’s recording every night from Sunday to Thursday to find out it we’re supposed to report. If our jury service number isn’t called, we can spend the next day going to our regular jobs or whatever. If our number is called, we have to go to the courthouse the next day and report.
  3. When we go to the courthouse, we may or may not get called into a courtroom for a trial we might be on the jury for. Once in the court room, we may or may not be called to the jury box to be questioned by attorneys. We can only leave the courthouse if we are officially told to do so by the jury clerk.
  4. If we are not selected for a jury, we still have to make calls for the rest of of our period of service until our service is over.

So, no, it’s not just a matter of flying in, saying your piece, and flying out again — as at least one commenter on Talking Points Memo has insisted Palin could do.  There are 30 days at least that she needs to be close enough to get to Palmer the following morning to report in person at the courthouse, whether or not her number is ever called.

But couldn’t she get out of jury duty? As Gryphen wrote yesterday at Immoral Minority,

She quit postponed the bus tour because she had JURY DUTY?

Seriously?  THAT is her excuse?

Which begs the question, does anybody really want a potential leader of this country who can’t even manage to get out of jury duty?

I have a hard time with that one, Gryphen: are you really suggesting that Palin should evade her civic duty?  As she already did, of course, by taking the oath of office as Alaska’s governor & then quitting with her job half undone — for which you have deservedly raked her over the coals.  But I’m pretty sure you’d rake her over the coals for using her influence or whatever to avoid jury service, too.

But she could have postponed her service. Here’s what the Trial Court Handbook says about that:

Can I postpone my jury service?

If jury service at the time for which you are summoned will cause hardship, you may request deferral of service to another time within the next ten months.  If you need to seek a deferral, you should do so as soon as possible.  Do not wait until the time you are to appear.  To reschedule your jury service, follow the instructions for question #12 on the Jury Questionnaire.  If you have already sent in your questionnaire, call the jury clerk as soon as possible for instructions.

Based on that, I think it’s possible the jury clerk might grant a postponement for her “family vacation” bus tour; & almost certainly for the trip (now canceled “for scheduling reasons”) with Franklin Graham to the Sudan — had she really wanted to go.  I guess she didn’t wanna.

Then there’s the question of whether it’d be a good idea to have her on a jury. Commenter bluestatedon at Talking Points Memo:

I cannot believe that any prosecuting attorney would agree to her being on a jury, seeing as how much of a circus that would create. It would be a complete distraction from the business at hand.

Agreed.  I can’t believe any attorney at all would want her on their jury, when it comes down to it: not for ideological reasons, necessarily, but just because of the distraction factor.

But if she was called for jury duty, she’s still required to to her service, or risk contempt of court and its possible consequences.

Jury duty doesn’t mean she’ll actually end up on a jury. I’ve have jury service at least 5 times in Alaska, and have never been actually seated on a jury.  (I came damn close last time, but attorneys always seem to dislike seating jurors who work in justice-related fields, like staff at the UAA Justice Center.)

It comes down to this: the Alaska Court System expects people called for duty to do their duty, no matter who they are.  The jury clerk doesn’t let someone out of it just because she’s famous, or because the jury clerk presumes to know how attorneys in a case might feel about a given potential juror.

So get a little more nuanced in your criticism, folks. Don’t just jump on the bashing bandwagon because you want to bash. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to criticize Palin and to want her far far far away from the seats of government without coming off sounding just as reality challenged as she is.

But can we at least know for sure if she has jury duty? At Talking Points Memo, several_ asks,

Have any “journalists” or bloggers bothered contacting the courts in Wasilla to ask them to confirm or deny whether she’s been called for jury duty or is everyone just taking her word for because of her solid relationship with the truth in the past? (<– sarcasm) Lists of those called for jury duty is public information isn’t it? Isn’t that how employers verify whether employees are telling the truth or just taking an unpaid vacation?

Well, first of all, there are no “courts in Wasilla.”  Alaska has no “county courts”: we have a unified court system called the Alaska Court System. The nearest courts to Palin’s Wasilla home are the Palmer District Court and Palmer Superior Court in Palmer.

Second, best I can tell, the Alaska Court System does not publish lists of people called for jury duty.  It does have a procedure for verifying a juror’s service for employers:

What if my employer wants proof of my jury service?

Ask the jury clerk for a Certificate of Jury Attendance either at the end of each day of trial or at the completion of the trial.  The certificate will indicate the dates and times you served.

But unless some investigative reporters or other can get Palin to wave her jury summons or questionnaire in front of their faces, we might never know for certain if she really has jury duty.

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