Jury duty jam

Two of life’s greatest inconveniences — jury duty and traffic — collided this week in California.

A courthouse computer system in Auburn accidentally summoned 1,200 people for jury duty  Tuesday. Traffic was jammed on the way to the Placer County Courthouse as citizens tried to report at 8 a.m.

“I’m a very mellow guy so it didn’t bother me but you could see the disdain and frustration on the faces of some of the other people,” a potential juror told the Auburn Journal. “They have to do a lot of juggling in the work place and in some, they don’t pay you for jury duty and you have to take unpaid time off or vacation time.”

The computer system was supposed to alert 900 people that they were not to show up for jury duty, but the automated message told them they should appear in court instead. Some called in beforehand to the courthouse, but about 800 people are estimated to have headed to court that day.

“The alert failed to notify us yesterday afternoon, so the clerk failed to update the system,” assistant court executive officer Geoff Brandt told CBS Sacramento. “The system then goes into default mode, and we were unaware the default mode was to call in every jury panel we had scheduled for the week.”

First lawsuit filed in Metro crash

Deep in today’s WaPo story about the deadliest crash in Metro history is this nugget:

The first lawsuit against Metro as a result of the crash was filed yesterday, and more are expected. The parents of Davonne Flanagan, 15, of the District sued in federal court, charging “negligent operation” and “negligent maintenance” on the part of Metro and the train’s operator.

Imhotep Yakub and Dawn Flanagan are seeking $950,000 for Davonne’s fractured leg and his pain and suffering. They are represented by Lawrence Lapidus, of the D.C. office of Karp, Frosh, Lapidus, Wigodsky & Norwind. (The firm also has offices in Rockville and Alexandria.)

A search of the PACER system shows no other suits filed against WMATA this week in D.C. or Maryland’s federal courts.

Don’t get rough with McGruff

mcgruff.jpgTwo recent crime stories that grabbed my attention:

A Washington, D.C. bus driver was fired last week after allegedly punching McGruff the Crime Dog in the head. Shawn Brim was driving a bus Feb. 28 when he got out of the vehicle, hit the off-duty police officer dressed as McGruff, got back in and drove away, according to a story in The Washington Post.

Brim later told police he did it “to be funny,” according to the story. What’s not funny, however, is the fact Brim chose to perform his hit-and-run in front of a group of children talking to McGruff, according to the story. McGruff, as you may know, is the trench coat-wearing dog with the gravelly voice who teaches kids to “take a bite out of crime.” Ironically, one of McGruff’s pet causes – so to speak – is how to stop and handle bullies.

Brim has been charged with misdemeanor assault.

The other story requires a back story. I was in court once when a woman came in with her son, who couldn’t have been more than a few months old. They sat in front of me, and soon the woman put a blanket over her shoulder and the boy disappeared. Women reading this probably know what happened next, but it took me a minute or two to realize she was breast-feeding.

I mention this story only to note that the woman appeared to devote both hands and  a certain amount of concentration to the task. Unlike, apparently, Genine Compton, an Ohio woman charged in late February with child endangering and unlawful child restraint for allegedly breast-feeding her baby while driving and talking on her phone, according to the Dayton Daily News.

Compton admitted she was breast-feeding and said it was because she “wouldn’t let her child go hungry,” according to the story.  An officer told the newspaper the legal concern was Compton had the child in her lap while she was driving as opposed to the breast-feeding.

Compton pleaded not guilty last week.

DANNY JACOBS, Legal Affairs Writer