If you see a pothole on a District street, you can log on to the Internet to report it. If you're nailed by one of those pesky red light cameras, you can go online to pay the fine. You can even file D.C. income tax returns over the Internet.
But until the unlikely day when a judge permits jurors to hear evidence over streaming video and to deliberate in a private chat room, you won't be able to fulfill your jury service over the Internet.
A few weeks ago, D.C. Superior Court started doing the next best thing, allowing prospective jurors to handle a lot of the early details online -- even if they're only doing so to, well, procrastinate.
For the past few years, prospective jurors have been able to defer their service by using an automated phone system. The court's online system offers an additional benefit: the ability to print a confirmation of the deferral and new jury date.
Online, a citizen summoned to the H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse can defer jury service for up to 90 days. Simply pick another date to your liking (no weekends or holidays, you sly types), and that's your new jury service date.
It is one of the newest conveniences of the Web site for D.C. Superior Court -- www.dccourts.gov/dccourts/superior. To get to the information, look for a heading on the right the D.C. Superior Court's home page called "Juror Services."
Want to clear your schedule so that you're free to serve? Punch in your Social Security number, and you'll probably be able to learn when you're next due to be called.
Typically, jury notices arrive every couple of years. Most people are called for petit jury service, which can be as short as a day if they are not chosen to sit on a jury the day they report to the courthouse, or as long as several weeks if they end up on complicated criminal or civil cases. Others are called for fixed 25-day terms on grand juries, which meet in secret at the U.S. attorney's office to hear evidence from prosecutors and decide whether to indict people.
The jury is, of course, a fundamental part of the legal system, and when it doesn't work, the rest of the system doesn't either, which is why Superior Court has gone to considerable lengths to make the work as painless as possible.
From a child-care center at the courthouse to telephone ports for folks who tote laptops to the juror lounge (no high-speed or wireless Internet in sight, however), the court caters to jurors with a deference not often seen in D.C. government dealings with the public.
The court needs hundreds of prospective jurors every week, and jury administrators do everything they can to keep the pool of people flush. The court culls names from just about every available source, from voter registrations to driver's licenses to records of public assistance payments.
It used to be that lawyers and doctors were readily excused. These days, though, it's not unusual to spot a judge outside the jury office answering a summons.
There are some disqualifiers: Only U.S. citizens can be called for jury service, and the court won't accept people with certain criminal backgrounds. You're out, for example, if you have a pending criminal case or if it's been less than 10 years since you completed a sentence for a felony conviction.
Once on a jury, many people find the experience interesting. In the District, it's the frequency of that experience that irks some, and that's unlikely to change soon.
So the jury managers at the courthouse, led by Suzanne Bailey-Jones and her boss Roy S. Wynn Jr., will keep plugging away at new ways to keep people coming back.