I Never Thought I Would Want to Do Jury Duty

File this under I guess you really do want what you can’t have. I never thought I would want to do jury duty, but I do. I recently received a summons for jury duty. The last time I received one several years ago, I was horrified. How would I get the time off work? Can I postpone? Can I get out of it? How can I be sure they won’t pick me for a jury?

This time I got the notice and realized it was not physically possible for me to sit on a jury. Even with my hearing aids, I couldn’t possibly hear well enough. I have trouble hearing in normal situations, unless the background noise is limited and people are facing me as they speak. Imagine a NYC courtroom – all wood and hard surfaces, lawyers pacing back and forth as they are talking with their backs to the jury much of the time, a mumbling defendant, jurors shifting in their seats, the incessant hum of the air conditioner or heater. Sounds like a recipe for disaster for anyone with hearing loss. I know I would not be able to hear all the important details of the case. I could not be responsible for someone’s fate without all the available facts. I could not be an effective juror.

I called my audiologist and she agreed that it would be very difficult for me to reliably hear in a courtroom situation. She wrote a letter for me to submit with my summons and I was excused from jury duty indefinitely. I should have been ecstatic, but I was crushed. This was the first time that I was not able to fulfill a responsibility or function because of my hearing loss. My guess is that it won’t be the last.

Readers, are you able to sit on a jury?

21 thoughts on “I Never Thought I Would Want to Do Jury Duty

  1. This is exactly what happened to me, I realized there was no way I could participate. I was unable to even understand what was going on in the preselection appearance.
    Like you, I was relieved and upset simultaneously.
    I have been excused permanently from Jury duty. Little losses that start to add up…..

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    • Actually, there is a way you can participate — request CART. However, if you want to be excused, the court is usually happy to excuse you. Personally, for me, my requesting to be excused would make me feel like I was showing the world hearing loss and deafness is disabling.

      We talk a lot about this subject on the club I belong to, SayWhatClub. In our last recent discussion one person shared his very public experience:

      http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2010/10/after_deaf_oswego_man_dismisse.html

      There is a way for deaf people to serve on juries if they want.

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    • I was excused three years ago, but now they sent me another summons. I have to redocument my situation now. My hearing has gotten worse in the past three years, I know in good conscious I cannot responsibly serve, but folks are making me feel guilty, like I was trying to get out of something. I am trying to do the responsible thing. In any environment, even with people I know closely, If I cannot see them face on and within about 3 feet, I will be lost. I wish people would understand that I am not giving up. I am trying to be responsible.

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  2. I too was excused from jury duty because of hearing loss. But if I am called upon to use my eyes for a service, I could participate. So I try to think of the things I can do instead of cannot do. Life goes on.

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  3. Over ten years ago I served on two juries. I didn’t want to be excused so I let the judge and attorneys know that I wanted to serve but that I had a severe hearing loss and was a lipreader. I was chosen for to serve on the jury twice, two consecutive years. I simply told the court that I needed to see the speaker in order to know what they were saying and I was able to follow the whole proceeding.

    I’m not sure I could do that now, as I have lost most of the rest of my hearing, but now I know about CART. You don’t have to feel like you “can’t” serve… there is always a work around. It might make you nervous to serve on a jury knowing how difficult it is to communicate/understand when you can’t hear, but step out of your comfort zone and see what you can do. As someone who began losing their hearing in early childhood (currently 55) I wasted way too many years thinking I couldn’t do things because of my hearing loss, but I got tired of giving up even before I tried. Change your attitude and see what you “can” do.

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  4. I just found your blog through an article in the spring issue of Hearing Health Magazine. I completed a jury duty survey including the information about my hearing loss. I was upfront regarding the necessary accommodations I would require to be a member of a jury including the need for CART services. While I wasn’t called, I was thanked for being upfront about my needs as an individual with hearing loss and not wasting the court’s time.

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  5. I can’t afford hearing aids but am not able to hear people talking, but, because of cost haven’t gone to a hearing doctor since my mid 60’s so I’m not sure how to let the courts know I would feel terrible if I didn;t understand the testimony.

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  6. My husband has terrible hearing even with hearing aids. The VA knows this – has records f it and still will not write a medical waiver for him to be excused from jury duty. They hint he is trying to avoid his civic duty. I wish his VA “doctor” could have his hearing for just 1 day to see what it is like.

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  7. This has been very helpful as I’ve often wondered if I should be excused from jury duty due to my hearing loss. Like others have been saying, if you turn your back to me, I’m lost. I would rather be excused than sit anxiously trying to hear.

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