Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jury reform may have a sympathetic ear in a genuine statesman

A few weeks ago, I met with Delegate Adams to talk about my ideas for jury reform.  For everyone who has been following my saga of jury reform for the last two years or so, yes, meeting with Delegate Adams is a big deal. 

I admit, I'm remiss on knowing who all of my elected officials are.  It's a good day for me if I remember my boss's name and can put that name to the right face.  Apparently Delegate Adams won the 2014 midterm elections since he assumed his current role in Jan 2015.  I vote in every election so most likely I voted for him because I didn't know anything about any of the candidates running that year and party line voting is what I usually do when I know nothing of the candidates on the ballot.

Not a drunk redneck, but still
a native Eastern Shore man

Now that I know who he is, please allow me to introduce him.

Delegate Adams is a born and raised Eastern Shore man.  That might explain why sitting down and talking with him in a Dunkin Donuts was so natural and easy.  He came in jeans and a nice shirt, nothing fancy.  Heck, if I weren't on my lunch break from work, I'd have no problem suggesting we go to the local bar and shoot some pool while we talked.

He was a half hour late.  Now he could've made lame excuses or blamed his assistant for not entering the appointment correctly in his calendar, but he did none of that.  When he walked in the Dunkin Donuts, he shook my hand, introduced himself, sat down, and apologized for being late.  He pulled out his phone and showed the appointment as being entered correctly and apologized again saying that he usually meets people at the Dunkin Donuts on Nanticoke Road and he didn't read the appointment carefully to realize he was supposed to be on Tilghman Road.

Wow.  A politician who dresses like I do and accepts blame instead of passing the buck or making excuses.  Immediately, I felt like this was a man I could relate to.

He liked some of my ideas I had written and told me some probably wouldn't fly.  He obviously read my ideas because he talked about specific points I had made.  Then he asked me what I thought about increasing the per diem pay of fifteen dollars to like fifty, sixty, maybe seventy per day.   

"Would that help?" he asked.

Turns out, last year, as a freshman, he proposed raising the per diem pay for jurors.  From his testimony before the House, he proposed the bill in response to what his constituents told him.  You can view his testimony here.  (If the video does not start with the introduction of Delegate Adams, simply move the cursor to the 3:11:00 mark.)

Did he say constituents?  Whoa, that's me and you!

Ok, I got a little ahead of myself here.  When Delegate Adams talked about his proposal to raise the per diem, I heard it as a good start, but a lot more needs to be done.  My problem, of course, is that a nine to five employee is getting paid the per diem plus the day's pay from his or her company - and if the company isn't paying for the jury service, the employee always has a personal day available to take so that the week's paycheck isn't taking a hit.

Our farmers, watermen, business owners, and independent contractors (1099 employees) lose a whole day's pay.  The per diem pay offsets the loss, but the bottom line is their civic duty costs them a lot more than it costs most nine to five employees.  In some cases, maybe a very few, the civic duty could cost them their contract.  One's civic duty shouldn't cost more than anyone else's. 

As we talked about this contention of who's shouldering the bigger financial liability to honor one's call to civic duty, I offhandedly made the comment to the effect of, "You know how the government...."

Delegate Adams let me finish my sentence and then said something I haven't heard a politician say in many decades, at least not sincerely like Delegate Adams said it. 

"I'm not the government.  I'm your voice and everyone else's voice."

And I believed him.  The whole time I was talking, it didn't escape my notice he was taking copious notes.  One doesn't take notes unless one plans on referring to them later.  I could almost see him doing exactly what I would do.  Take the notes home, arrange them and jot some more notes down, and always be thinking what was said and how it ties in with what everyone else has said.

At the end of our meeting, which lasted almost half an hour, Delegate Adams asked me what I would want to see happen.  Again, a very pointed question that showed he was listening and wanted to serve me.  Over the last couple of decades, I have become accustomed to politicians (and government employees in general) telling me what I'm supposed to think and do.  His question threw me for a loop.  I realized in that instant I was talking to someone who knew his job description and exactly what that job description - public servant - meant.

I answered his question very simply.  If all I saw happen was real talk out of Annapolis about reforming the jury selection process, I'd be happy.  If we start accommodating the farmers, watermen, and the self employed now, accommodations for a radically different workforce of the future as machines take over more and more jobs will be much easier to make.

Remember how many times I have asked where all our real statesmen/women have gone?  I think I found one in Delegate Adams. 

But you know what he needs?  Your voice.

Let him know of your experience with the jury selection process and what you think could have made the whole process of carrying out your civic duty easier.  Somehow, I think he wants to hear from you.

Jury reform isn't high on your list of legislative goals?  What's wrong with you!

No, seriously, not a big deal.  But it is a big deal we have a born and raised Eastern Shore man who listens and he probably wants to hear from you.  Make him earn his paycheck and tell him what's on your mind even if it's not about jury duty.

Christopher T. Adams
Republican, District 37B, Caroline, Dorchester, Talbot, & Wicomico Counties

    House Office Building, Room 323
    6 Bladen St., Annapolis, MD 21401
    (410) 841-3343, (301) 858-3343
    1-800-492-7122, ext. 3343 (toll free)
    fax: (410) 841-3299, (301) 858-3299

TL;DR folks:
I met with our delegate, Christopher Adams, and talked about my ideas for jury reform.  What you need to know - your delegate is a born and raised Eastern Shore man who wants you to tell him what you want.  So tell him at the above contact information.  Tell him anything on your mind and if jury duty is one of those things, cool.

For your listening pleasure

Posted by Five Drunk Rednecks

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