Take It from Me


I have to front up for jury duty, and I really don’t want to get picked for a trial. How can I make sure I’m rejected?

Oh, the number of times we’ve talked this one through in the office… the strategies we’ve developed… We actuaries are all hard-working and (naturally) indispensable, and clearly we do not want to take time out of the office to be part of a trial that could be (1) boring, (2) confronting or (3) lengthy. Plus, we don’t know much about the law, and how could anyone be taken seriously wearing one of those silly wigs?

What are your options, then? You want to find a way of being extremely unappealing to either prosecution or defence (in NSW each side is allowed to reject up to three people – without giving reasons). The official website that I consulted as part of my extensive research helpfully advises that “[Rejection] is not a personal reflection on you. This is a right under our laws.” (Are they suggesting that there are people who might WANT to be selected?) It also told me that the average length of a trial in NSW is seven days; however, since it did not provide a standard deviation, a mode or a median (seriously, legal people!) I found this information of limited use.

So, to the serious stuff. What should you be wearing to make sure that you’ll be kicked out? Immediately you are faced with a choice: who are you trying to not appeal to, defence or prosecution? Presumably, an individual who doesn’t suit the prosecution may look like a wonderful option for the defence, and vice versa. TRICKY!

Something extreme seems like the obvious approach. Ultra- conservative, perhaps? Suit, neat hair, dark colours, briefcase. No facial hair, no big earrings, and try not to smile. Surely a defence’s worst nightmare? Add some glasses too – I’ve heard a theory that ‘they don’t like smart people’. Should be a doddle for most of us!

Or there’s the other end of the spectrum. I’m thinking ripped jeans, black t-shirt with offensive message (or at least a death metal band), long dirty hair and three day growth. Flash those piercings, and tattoos (very realistic temporary ones are available). You might well be the prosecution’s first rejection!

How about bringing politics into it? It’s a dangerous subject, but if you’re trying to look unappealing some sort of radical statement could do the job. Once again, two extremes are possible: (1) Alan Jones or Tea Party t-shirt, conspicuous Australian flag badge, hair just a little TOO neat. (2) Greenpeace singlet, ‘Save the Reef’ or Amnesty International button, crocheted vest, Julian Assange hair?

Other clothing/accessories that may say “reject me”:

  • Camouflage gear (especially with shoulder stripes).
  • Bandanna, tiara or pom pom on head.
  • Novelty tie – carrot, Spongebob, Spiderman.<
  • Groucho Marx (obviously fake) moustache.
  • Emo makeup.

Enough about the clothes. I imagine it’s possible to make the desired ‘wrong’ impression with what you’re doing in the selection box. Chewing gum – or, better, blowing bubbles – may be a turn-off. Will your chances of being rejected be enhanced, or reduced, if you are evidently not paying attention to proceedings? A strange, nervous laugh at inappropriate times during the empanelment procedure could be effective. Alternatively, an off-puttingly wide smile, directed at any member of the official personnel.

All of these are of course speculative strategies, and no one I know has ever actually tried them out. And, even if they had, what works on one occasion may not be effective on another! Which potentially indicates that the simplest strategy will be to… just be yourself, and hope for the best.

On a side note, there is something that has always concerned me about the desperation to avoid jury duty displayed by the gainfully employed. After all of these people escape, just who DO we end up with on our juries?


This is the 49th Ask Gae! column I’ve written since beginning in 2006. I’ve decided to hang up my pen after the 50th. But you can all look forward to Ask Bruce! ‘Bruce’ will be advising you with great flair and a new perspective.

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