Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Some parts of government work very well, while others do not

Earlier this year I got a summons from Ada County for jury duty all last week. They use a Standby Jury System to minimize disrupting the lives of citizens. That means that late each afternoon from Sunday to Thursday I just had to call in or check their web site for Daily Reporting Instructions to see if my assigned number for the next day was listed as on stand-by. If it was, then I had to report to a room at the Courthouse.

On Sunday the message said a case had settled, and the group containing my number did not have to report. Messages for the next four days listed other groups starting with higher numbers, so they passed me by.

My siblings and friends have told me about other places where jurors had to report to the courthouse and then sit around for hours each day before eventually being told they were not needed.

A professional engineer who did accident and fire investigations (and testified frequently as an expert witness) told me what had happened to him. He was sent a summons to appear at his county courthouse in a midwestern state capital. During the preliminaries (voir dire) the judge asked prospective jurors to raise their hand if they knew any of the lawyers in the room. Rick raised his hand. They asked him which one, and he replied something like:

“I know Tom, Dick, Harry, John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew.”

He was excused - for knowing way too much.  

My Idaho driver’s license will expire a few years from now, on my birthday. The work load at the county offices issuing them in the state is spread very evenly around the year. 

Contrast that with Tax Day. Why should most individual federal income taxes be due on a single madhouse day of April 15th? That filing deadline started as March 1st back in 1913, moved in 1918 to March 15th, and in 1954 to April 15th. Why aren’t there multiple deadlines based on birth months to level out the workload for tax accountants, and to even out the cash flow of refund checks from the IRS?

Right now Idaho driver’s licenses don’t comply with the federal Real ID act, and there’s still more the state needs to do to update their security provisions.

The image of a courtroom in Cleveland came from the Library of Congress.

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