Recently, I was summoned for jury duty. For some time in my former non-SAHM life, I was a practicing attorney and, for now, I still have my license. I have always wanted to serve on a jury. Not only do I consider it a privilege, I think it would be fascinating. Upon receiving the summons, I noted that, thank goodness, I was called to the Daley Center and not to the dangerous area of 26th and California. Then I walked over to the calendar to mark off the day. Just as I was about to put pen to paper (yes, I have a wall calendar, not some electronic thing), I hesitated. “What am I going to do with the kids?” I wondered.
In over five years since we had children, we have never hired a babysitter. If Gadget Man and I go out without the children, my mother or his mother watches the children. My mother-in-law works some weekdays and even if she were free, she won’t do anything before 10 a.m. Even if my mother was able to take the kids for the entire day, what would I do if I were assigned to a trial that lasted more than one day? I was fairly certain that if I showed up for one day and explained my lack of childcare, that I would be dismissed. Why waste the court’s and my time to explain my situation? The summons stated that one may be excused from jury duty “because of undue hardship.” Surely, this is a case of undue hardship.
Prior to drafting the request to be excused from jury duty, I conducted some research on the matter. As it turns out, Illinois Statute 705 ILCS 305/10.2 (b) provides that one may be excused from jury if one is the primary caregiver to children under the age of twelve. The provision states:
When an undue hardship caused by a family situation is due to the prospective juror being the primary care giver of a person with a mental or physical disability, a person with a medically diagnosed behavior problem, or a child under age 12, then the county board, jury commissioners or jury administrator shall excuse such a prospective juror, if it finds that no reasonable alternative care is feasible which would not impose an undue hardship on the prospective juror or the person for whom the prospective juror is providing care, or both.
Happily, I discovered that there is also a provision excusing nursing mothers (see 705 ILCS 305/10.3). It seems Illinois is quite enlightened and “family friendly.”
I wrote my letter and sent it to the Jury Administrator as instructed on the summons. I never heard a word. Usually, I am incredibly responsible (some say anal) and, in such a case, I would telephone the administrator to make sure he or she got my letter and that I was, indeed, excused. However, I completely forgot to call. I woke up in the middle of the night just before the date in a panic. “What if my letter got lost in the mail?” “What if this particular administrator doesn’t like to excuse caregivers and I’m really not excused?” “Will they find me in contempt of court?”
It has been over a month since the jury duty date and I believe the system worked. I pleaded my case as a caregiver of young children, and I can safely say that I was, indeed, excused. Thank you, Illinois legislature, for valuing the family and the primary caretaker’s responsibilities. Thank you, Cook County Jury Administrator, for understanding this SAHM’s particular situation.
This is cross-posted at http://www.chicagomomsblog.com