Called, Not Served by
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Prompted By Jury Duty

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Over my many years as a Massachusetts resident, I’ve been called for jury duty three times. The first time, after waiting for hours with all people called that day (including a cousin of my husband’s), my pool was called into the courtroom. The judge asked if there was any reason why any of us couldn’t serve for an extended period of time (I believe it was a murder trial). My hand shot up. The judge called me up to speak to him privately. I informed him that I was the sole caretaker of my two small children. My husband was a management consultant who traveled all the time. In fact, he would be on a flight to Houston in a few hours and I needed to get home to pick my children up from school. I was immediately dismissed.

The second time (this was in March, 2004) was a bit more interesting, though offered the same results. Another long wait, then called into the court room. This time, the bailiff read a list of names and asked if we knew any of the people on the list. One was the woman from whom we’d purchased our home 18 years previously. Again, my hand shot up and I was immediately dismissed. She was a psychiatrist who got into some trouble for having an affair with the husband of one her patients – totally unethical! It broke up both the marriages and she married the other man. I don’t know what the trial was about, but perhaps that misdeed had something to do with it.

I was called once again, more recently, but a few days before my date, received a message that my service was not required. And that is my history with jury duty, or lack thereof.


Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: well written


  1. I’m sorry you never served Betsy because knowing you I can attest that you would have been an intelligent, very well-informed juror – an important commodity!

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I appreciate your faith in me, Dana. I’m sure I would have taken the responsibility seriously too, and even, perhaps, been able to persuade others to think as I did, had there been any questions in that regard. But that opportunity never presented itself.

  2. Khati Hendry says:

    Seems that everyone dreads jury duty but few who are called up ever have to serve. I was called many times but was released each time, eventually. It turns out that very few cases ever make it to the (very expensive) jury trial, for better or worse. I am sure you would have been a thoughtful and diligent juror however.

  3. pattyv says:

    Betsy, isn’t it amazing that you never served, and yet from reading this, it seems you would have made an ideal juror. I’m not proud to admit I never wanted to serve, just honest. Yet our entire Justice system in the United States relies on people like yourself, who take their civic responsibility to heart. Thank you.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      The first time I was called, I really could not, as I did not have the time (like so many others have described in their stories), since I had two young children at home and a traveling husband. But after that, I would have served and (as I said to Khati) would have listened carefully, weighed the evidence and taken my responsibilities seriously. The system seems to slant toward older people who have to time to serve, but I’m not sure this is “justice”.

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Your excuse about having to care for your young kids would no longer be accepted from what I’ve heard. I think that’s pretty unfair.

  5. Suzy says:

    Betsy, there’s still time, you might still end up on a jury. And btw, I do think that being the sole caretaker of two young children would still get you out of it, contrary to what Laurie says. Of course, it probably varies from state to state.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Fascinating story, Betsy, about never serving. (I guess the technical term is “jury virgin.”) But it is indeed ironic that, with so many people trying to avoid jury service, you, with your laudable sense of public duty, have never been chosen and/or had a wholly legitimate reason not to serve.

    I believe Suzy is right that being the sole caretaker, even if it is not a basis for automatic exclusion, is often deemed valid grounds for being excused in most states. That’s the way things were in New York when I moved from there (there was a specific question on the jury questionnaire) — not that I’ve ever been a sole caretaker myself, to the great relief and benefit of my children.

    And, of course, you should not have served on the jury in your second example, as you personally knew one of the parties. But it sounds like it sure would have been an interesting case to sit on.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Thanks, John. I don’t know why I wasn’t called that third time around…just got excused, no reason given. And I don’t know what the trial was about that included the woman from whom we bought our house, but her name was on the list, so I certainly couldn’t be impartial. “Dink”.

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