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MaryEllen Tribby: The Day I Went to Court (Part I)


Image courtesy of StuartMiles/

Have you ever been called to jury duty? If so, you may have reacted much in the same way I did when I first got my jury summons. In the 10 seconds after I opened the letter, I came up with a thousand excuses for not going.

Later that evening, I complained to my husband that, with the kids and running a business, I did not have time for jury duty. His smart and simple words changed my thinking on the subject forever.

He said, “If I had an injustice done to me or if one of the kids were in trouble, I would want someone like you on the jury. You want people on a jury who are smart, who will listen and understand the law, and, most important, whom you can trust to make a decision based on the facts instead of emotion.”
He pointed out that this last attribute is what I bring to my business every day. For instance, when I need to hire someone, I base my decision on whether a particular person is good for the position and the company. When I have to discontinue a product, I base my decision on the viability of that product – not whether or not I like it.

And when I have to make the hardest decision of all – to fire someone – I can do it because I know it is the right thing to do.
What my husband said made so much sense to me that all of a sudden my dread turned into excitement. I started looking forward to this new experience.

So on the appointed Wednesday, I eagerly reported to the Palm Beach County Courthouse with a newfound sense of pride and determination.
While going through security, I was surprised and impressed by the efficiency and politeness of the guards. I was amazed by how smoothly check-in went. Much faster than any airport security, amusement park, or movie line I have ever been in.

After a brief wait, I was randomly selected to go through the voir dire process. (“Voir dire” is French for “to see, to say.” Roughly translated, it means “to speak the truth.”)

Twenty-one of us got called into the courtroom. There, the judge introduced the case to us, as well as the defendant and both attorneys.
First, all the potential jurors answered the same 12 questions. Then the judge, followed by both attorneys asked us very specific questions to determine who would be selected to decide the fate of the defendant.

During this process, I noticed that, as in other areas of life, some people took the responsibility very seriously while others did not. (More on that in a moment.)

“If your name is called,” the judge said, “please come and sit in the jury box.”

I sat there restlessly, wanting to be called to one of the seven chairs. After all, I took the entire process seriously and wanted to do the right thing.
When there were only two chairs left, my mind kept flashing back to the last season of “American Idol.” Wouldn’t you know it? I was the last one called.

There were moments during the trial when I secretly wished I had not been selected. Not because of the time commitment but because of the severity of the case. This man’s future was literally up to us. The sense of responsibility was overwhelming.

Check back in next week for more of MaryEllen’s experience and what she learned that you can translate to your business.

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