Jury Duty: An Alaska Way of Life

The View from 18 Mile Near Control Lake and Eagles Nest Campground, Prince of Wales Island, AlaskaThe View from 18 Mile Near Control Lake and Eagles Nest Campground, Prince of Wales Island, Alaska

Thorne Bay, Alaska (1997-2016) – Jury duty. Who thinks of jury duty when they remember their life in Alaska? My husband did yesterday as we reminisced about our twenty years in the Last Frontier.

“Do you remember how often they selected us for jury duty? It seemed like one of us always had a postcard in the mail and was calling the court’s recording line to see if we needed to report for jury selection,” he reminded me. In the six years since retiring in Wyoming, I’ve only known one person called for jury duty. In Thorne Bay, it was a regular occurrence to have at least one to three of the 15-20 school staff members calling the court recording line. When selected, we called in weekly for three months.

Living in a sparsely populated area of Alaska meant jury duty was a fact of life. There are many unique aspects of living in this state; one overlooked in the stunning scenery is jury duty.

Now, for the rest of the Alaska story.

Sign with milage to communities on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
18-Mile Corner on Prince of Wales Island, Alaska

During our tenure on Prince of Wales Island, the courthouse was in the old Thibodaux Building across the street from the Thompson House grocery store in Craig. Today, the court building is in Klawock. In the early years, we drove 75 minutes down a shot rock road to town, but later, the paved highway shortened the ride to under an hour. Either way, showing up for jury duty in Craig meant a jaunt across the island and missing work.

The jury notices in Alaska are pulled from the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend applicant list from the previous year. This means newcomers to the state may receive a jury duty notice once they have applied for their first PFD. The PFD is money the state gives to eligible residents who apply for the October disbursement by the end of March. The funds come from interest earned on invested oil money from the 1980s.

Before the road construction in the early 2000s, we drove 18 miles down the rough road from Thorne Bay, turned at this sign, and traveled another 18 miles into Klawock. Residents still call this area of the highway Eighteen Mile or Eighteen Mile Corner despite the distance being a mile or two shorter. The view from this spot on the road was breathtaking and unforgettable—one of my favorite places until they clear-cut it. Darn.

View of the isolated street looking at homes in Thorne Bay, Alaska
View of Thorne Bay, Alaska from My Front Porch 1999-2016

Other Posts of Alaska Life

Alaska Teacher Housing – This post provides a glimpse into the housing issues we faced in remote Alaska between 1995-2016.

An Alaskan Thanksgiving – The first Thanksgiving in Nelson Lagoon with no stores, family, or close friends was the beginning of twenty years of holidays away from home.

A Snapshot into Alaska Bush Life – Transplant yourself to Thorne Bay, Alaska’s dock and see how it is essential to life in remote residents.