N.B.: This past summer, I served jury duty and was placed on the jury for a criminal case. The case lasted two weeks, for the duration of which I had most of the songs from the unpopular Gilbert & Sullivan operetta “Trial by Jury” stuck in my head. I enclose for the reader’s delectation and benefit an excerpt from the forthcoming musical version of my experience.


The Learned Judge

Chorus of Jury Duty Servers


SCENE — a Court of Justice, Barristers, Attorney, and 60 People Trying To Get Out Of Jury Duty present.

CHORUS OF NEW YORK PROFESSIONALS. Hark, the hour of nine is sounding:

Hearts with anxious fears are bounding,

Hall of Justice, crowds surrounding,

Several nervous coughs—

For to-day while we must sweat here,

Summoned by official letter,

The judge might free us of these fetters,

Oh Christ please let us off.


CHORUS. All hail, great Judge!

We have no fear:

We don’t begrudge

That we are here.

We’d love to stay —

We wish we could —

We can’t, we say,

Or we really would.


Silence your cell phones. Put them in your pockets.

A most interesting case is on the docket.

Don’t check your e-mail, pay attention to me:

I’ll tell you how you can get off the jury.

ALL. He’ll tell us how we can get off the jury!

JUDGE. I’ll tell you how you can get off the jury!

My friends, when I first was called to the Bar,

Of the great state of New York,

I’d a few misconceptions about what are

The ways in which things work.

I’d been to law school, clerked at a firm,

Thought the Law was a thing of beauty —

I’d never have dreamed how deeply folks squirm

When they’ve got to serve their civic duty!

CHORUS. I’d never have dreamed, etc.

JUDGE. Can’t leave your job — can’t leave your kids —

Excuses? You’ll enlist ’em.

All these pathetic, lying bids

To fuck the legal system.

You’ll never get that shit by me.

(Pardon my French, I guess.)

Try something funny and you’ll see

My patience put to the test.

CHORUS. Try something funny, etc.

JUDGE. Now. Who’s first?

JUROR 1. Your honor, I humbly beseech

You let me back to my job:

You see, I’ve students I must teach

Or they’ll turn into slobs.

JUDGE. No. Next!

JUROR 2. I truly hope, and ask, and wish

You don’t take up my days:

I don’t speak any English

Excepting that last phrase.

JUDGE. I don’t believe you. Next!

ME. I’ve lawyers for my mom and dad,

And brother, and so I

Am trained to hate those who’ve been bad

And vote to hang ’em high.

JUDGE (spoken). Really, young lady? Are you going to be a lawyer too? I bet your family expects you to be! Don’t disappoint them!

ME. Are you actually interrupting my song to ask me that? A man is on trial here! And now everyone else on the jury hates me.

JUDGE. Yeah, but come on, the trial’s only for computer fraud.

ME. COMPUTER FRAUD? Is that as boring as it sounds?

JUDGE. Yes! Welcome to the jury!

ME. O Judge, listen to me, I pray,

Though you want me to serve on your jury,

The rules to get off I’ve obeyed,

I’m not even the least bit demure-y.

I’ve tried to seem like a real bitch,

And I bragged about going to Yale —

I seem biased and ornery — which

I was sure would help my plan prevail.

If this were like “Twelve Angry Men”

But worse, I’d be no Henry Fonda —

I’d be that unpleasant guy times ten,

Racist Lee J. Cobb — a shonda.

Yeah! Did I mention I’m a Jew?

In so many ways I’m prejudiced.

I’m hitting all the checkmarks. You

Should really tell me I’m dismissed.

RECIT—JUDGE. That was a valiant effort, really,

But you’re so young, and hence —

I hope you’ll find this appealing —

It’s a learning experience!

ME. Goddammit.

[There follow ten days of the most boring testimony imaginable. I am definitely paying attention the entire time. The woman sitting next to me falls asleep and is never reprimanded. The forelady literally does not speak English. Scene.]