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Confessions of a possible juror, part one | Joan Rataic-Lang

Wednesday, June 22, 2022 @ 8:34 AM | By Joan Rataic-Lang

Joan Rataic-Lang %>
Joan Rataic-Lang
Today I have to appear at the local courthouse, in response to my third jury summons. The first time I was called, I had a trip planned, and was able to send them a copy of the flight itinerary, and I was deferred. That means I was still on the list and should expect a summons again. I got one, for late March 2020. COVID-19 and the shutdown of the court system in Ontario took care of that. I got my last summons a month or so ago and wondered about my fate.

My first step was to ask for a deferral. Doesn’t everyone want to get out of jury duty? Besides, I am responsible for the courthouse library and am executive director of the Toronto Lawyers Association. Surely the fact that I am privy to research, research that might be for the case that I have been called for, could have crossed my e-mail box. No response, apparently the clerk did not see this as a reason to defer me. As the day approached, I asked the criminal defence lawyers who I saw daily in the library and the lawyers lounge how do I get out of this? Apparently, the rules around juror challenges have changed, and judges make the decisions. Unless I am openly racist, I will be put on a jury. I also knew the Superior Court had issued a notice. Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz’s notice said that jurors who will not disclose their vaccination status, or who are not vaccinated will be denied. But I can’t lie. I have been vaccinated and am not a racist.

Then I thought about the hardship this would bring on the association, and me. The association has three full-time staff, and two part-time staff who work from home most of the time. In the past the summer has not been a busy time and the association has decided that a refresh of the lawyers’ lounge was well overdue. Painting, new floor, new furniture, what an exciting project, to start in a few weeks, when I could potentially be on a jury, and one of my team was going on a well-deserved three-week vacation that was approved months ago.

When I originally approved the vacation, it was a perfect plan. She would be gone, and I could supervise the beginning of the construction project and when she returned, and they would be finishing, and she could be there for whatever was needed. Yes, we have a project manager as well, but as those of you who work in a courthouse know, there are extra rules around security and access and there should be someone on-site for those things that need to be dealt with immediately. There would always be a responsible staff person on-site. Does this justify a hardship for the association, me being gone during that time?

Recently a younger lawyer expressed a viewpoint I had not considered. How many people are curious about what it’s like to be a juror. Wouldn’t it be cool to go through the experience and then share that through an education program? It’s like he read my mind. Those of you in the law library community know that I like to share.

So many lawyers have expressed an intellectual curiosity around what the experience of a juror is like.

Last night we had our last board meeting before the summer and I began to think about my duty as a Canadian in civil society. I can’t tell you how many people said, what an interesting experience being on a jury would be. I have to leave for court soon and am sitting here conflicted and confused. What does access to justice mean? What is my role? As a responsible, seemingly intelligent person I should be clamouring to get on that jury. Many years ago, before I was born, my parents came to Canada for the freedom it offered. My parents voted in absolutely every election they could. My mother was only recently called for jury duty, and although her spoken English is pretty good, her language, age and health conditions disqualified her. 

This is the first half of a two-part series.
Joan Rataic-Lang is executive director and library director of the Toronto Lawyers Association.

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