April 18, 2014

A Different View

A few months ago, I was randomly selected to fill out a pre-qualification questionnaire for federal jury duty.

Looks like I made the cut...

I'm fascinated at the idea that I may end up on a federal jury.  I've heard two sets of conflicting feedback re: the likelihood that this may happen.

The most common theory is that lawyers always get stricken.  The party with the weaker legal case will use a challenge to get rid of you if you're a lawyer because you can easily spot the flaws in their case.

The other lore I've heard (from a career clerk for the federal judge I externed for who sat on 3 federal juries in her career and a few other sources) is that if they are going to trial, particularly federal trial, both parties think they have a great case and a lawyer is a much better bet than a random citizen in terms of actually paying attention to the evidence and ruling in accordance with the law.

I'm amused to see that I'm totally ambivalent on how this may play out.  I can't help but think that one of the reasons I can be ambivalent is because I saw how seriously the jurors took their duties when I was a federal extern.  The jury is one of the greatest legal concepts this country has (at least in the criminal and tort worlds, where I had the privilege of watching it be applied, very seriously and thoughtfully by randomly selected panels in the federal court system).

So, if I end up on a jury, so be it.  I'll serve to the best of my abilities and my practice, professional life, and personal life will all have to take the hit (given the dates at issue, I'll likely have to cancel pre-arranged travel).

If I don't end up on the jury, I won't be sad -- my practice, my professional life, and my personal life, will likely be better off.  Another individual will take my place.  And if my experience is any indicator, they will take it seriously and do a thoughtful deliberate job at arriving at their conclusions as well.


L.A. Runner said...

Please don't hold this against me, but I avoided jury duty like the plague! I basically begged my way out of it, saying I was a teacher and the time of year was critical for my students (state testing period). I was so relieved that they let me off. I later felt guilty b/c I know I was avoiding civic duty, but the entire concept of it stressed me to no end!

I don't feel like I'm educated enough to decide (or help decide) someone's innocence. Let us know how it plays out.

Biting Tongue said...

@L.A. Runner -- I don't hold it against you at all.

The reality is, I can set an out of office notice in my email and move my emergency client work around to the early AM, nights, and weekends, and my clients won't complain.

If I couldn't do this, I doubt I'd be remotely as ambivalent about my civic duty.

I disagree about your education level. The jury of peers exists exactly so that ordinary people decide ordinary people's guilt or innocence. Your writing shows you to be thoughtful, intelligent, and having a strong desire to do the right thing. You are *exactly* who should be on a jury.

But, I completely understand that it can be a hardship that will unnecessary and unevenly affect some people, and it sounded like the court agreed, which is why they let you off.