Late last year, I received a jury summons for the Federal District Court in Alexandria, with jury selection to be done on Monday, February 6th, for a petit jury trial expected to last from the beginning of March through late May. I got out of it by writing a plea to be excused. The relief I felt on learning that I would not have to serve has doubled since a friend pointed out that the jury selection for the Moussaoui trial’s death penalty phase was in the same place and at the same time as my summons. They never would have seated me on that jury, since I believe that the fair application of the death penalty is not possible in our criminal justice system (even supposing that state-sanctioned killing of criminals is moral and just, a debatable point.) At least I got to spend the afternoon with my kids, and some of our neighborhood friends, instead of filling out 46 page questionnaire that would have disqualified me from serving on this jury after all.
Even so, I’m ambivalent about getting my way on this. Someday, I’d be proud to serve on a jury, but taking care of my two preschool-age kids (who have only part-time child care arrangements) and being the managing partner of a small business, while my wife tostita goes to grad school full time, would have made it next to impossible for me to serve on any jury.
Here’s the plea-for-excuse letter I wrote last fall, lightly edited to fix the minor typos and errors that snuck into the letter I actually sent.
December 7, 2005
Dear Madam or Sir,
Due to the hardship jury duty would cause my family and the small business that I own and manage, I respectfully request to be excused from serving as a juror. The summons I received says that I am juror number 01-0559, with a summons date of February 6, 2006.
I am the primary daily caregiver for our two young children, Patrick (age 4) and Audrey (age 2), and jury duty would pose a severe hardship for our family due to our present circumstances. My wife, Patricia Bullington-McGuire, is currently attending graduate school at George Mason University on a full time basis, in a Masters of Elementary Education program. During the period of the jury summons, this full-time program has a required 32-hour-per-week teaching internship (4 days / week, 7:50am-3:50pm) and a one-day-per-week graduate class component. Patricia gets only one personal day of leave during the spring semester. Because of this intensive program, Patricia is unable to assist with child care during the day. My son Patrick has a medical condition, right hemiplegia, that requires biweekly physical therapy at The Chesapeake Center in Springfield, Virginia, and a program of follow-up care in the home. Both of my children them are enrolled in the Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preshool (AUCP). In this cooperative preschool, parents are required to work in the classroom on a part-time basis; on average, our family is required to work in the classroom about once per week, from 9 AM – 1 PM. While we have some part-time childcare help, it would be grossly inadequate to care for our children in the event that I were serving on a jury. If I were to serve on this jury, my wife would have to withdraw from graduate school to care for our children, or we would have to discontinue their preschool and Patrick’s physical therapy for the duration of the trial and enroll them in a full-time day care center, assuming we could even find a placement for them on this short notice.
Serving on the jury would also cause serious harm to the small business that is my family’s primary means of support, PKR Internet, LLC. I am the managing Partner of a small software consulting business, PKR Internet, LLC . PKR Internet has three full-time partners (myself included) and three part-time employees. As Managing Partner, I am personally responsible for managing daily operations, finance and accounting, sales and marketing, strategic planning, and performing consulting for our customers. Without my daily participation, the business would not be able to operate over the three months that the trial is scheduled to last, as the other two partners are computer programmers, not business managers. The risk that we would default on one or more of our contracts would be unacceptable. This would cause harm not only to me personally, but to the other five staff members who rely on our company for employment.
Given both my family and business responsibilities, serving on a jury this spring would cause extraordinary hardship to me, my family, and my business associates. I have enclosed documentation supporting the facts surrounding this request. Please grant my request to be excused from jury service.
George Mason University enrollment letter (proof of enrollment in graduate program) for Patricia
SallieMae loan documentation showing continued academic participation for spring 2006 for Patricia
Birth certificates for Patrick and Audrey Bullington-McGuire
Class schedules for AUCP indicating parent co-op work requirements
Chesapeake Center brochure (Patrick’s physical therapy) and receipt for services
Copy of first page of tax form K1 showing ownership of PKR Internet, LLC