Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jury Duty? On a Monday?

Palm Beach County Courthouse Photo from
Palm Beach County Bar Association
     Well, here I sit in the Jury Assembly Room at Palm Beach County Courthouse. It's the third time I've been called for jury duty. The first time, everything was resolved in the Courtroom and I was sent home. The second time, I was seated on a drunk driving case. It didn't take long, was fascinating, and I was released. This time, I was scheduled to start my new job this morning and instead am sitting here typing...
1916 Courthouse in 1947
Photo from PalmBeachCounty.org

     The Palm Beach County Courthouse was originally built in 1916. It had one courtroom and sat in splendor on the east side of Dixie Highway just north of Banyan Boulevard. In 1927, an additional building rose to handle the needs of the County as it grew. 

1969 Wraparound
Photo from PalmBeachCounty.org

     By 1969, the two buildings were encased in another building that went from sidewalk to sidewalk. This is the building I remember from my childhood. It was pale yellow and rose straight up from the pavement. It was neither impressive nor interesting.

     In 1995, the County opened a marble and stone Judicial Center directly across the street from the old Courthouse. This is where I'm sitting now and that's a picture of it at the beginning of this article. This building impresses you with the importance of the business being conducted within. The halls echo with footsteps and attorneys bustle about, briefcases in hand, talking in hushed tones with clients or discussing possible last minute settlement with other attorneys.

     It was 2002 when the Palm Beach County Commission decided to restore the 1916 Courthouse across the street. By 2004, Hedrick Brothers, the contractor, was salvaging anything possible and demolishing both the 1969 wrap-around and the 1927 building. The salvaged materials were used to restore the 1916 building.

Courtroom in 1916 Courthouse
Picture from pbcgov.com
     If you wander into the 1916 building these days, you get an impression of the grandeur of a different age. Wooden stair rails gleam and tile floors are cool and welcoming. It was in March, 2008, that the Richard and Pat Johnson Palm Beach County History Museum opened to the public. The building also houses one of my favorite haunts, The Historical Society of Palm Beach County. Not only can visitors enjoy the varying topics of Palm Beach County History displayed in the Museum, but are, after joining or paying a small fee, able to carefully dig through the archives of the Historical Society.

     And after touring the Museum, you can climb up restored stairs to the original courtroom. Standing on the polished wooden floor in front of the judge's podium as the sun pours through the windows behind, you can feel a whisper of cases that were heard in that Courtroom and imagine the lives that were changed here.

     As for me, I, and several others in the Jury pool, were kicked out of the pool and sent to the locker room when a trial was cancelled. I made it to the new job about an hour and a half late. I had mixed feelings about being released. Judicial proceedings are a fascinating process to watch and unless you're fortunate enough to have time to hang out at your local Courthouse, most of us don't get to see it in action. I'm kind of hoping I get a Juror Summons in the mail again next year so I can take another dip into the pool. Don't tell anyone, though. Apparently, we aren't supposed to enjoy it.