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February 27, 2007

Jury duty

Turns out, I've got jury duty tomorrow after all. Any tips?

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Well, if you're not thrilled with the prospect, the word "journalist" will generally send most lawyers into paroxysms and get you dismissed promptly.

I don't mind being on jury duty. That's $40 bucks a day from Uncle
Sam, or Gov. Spitzer as the case may be. All for just showing up, listening, and voting at the end. Sounds pretty sweet to me. Usually, I actually have to write about the stuff I go to in order to get paid. With jury duty, I'm mercifully forbidden to write anything about what I see or hear. And I get to do my civic duty.

I've probably got an unreasonable rosy view of what jury duty is like. I've never done it before.

It's downtown, right? Then you have to go to either Wohop or preferably New Pasteur (may now be called Pho Pasteur) on Baxter St for lunch. New Pasteur is the best Vietnamese food in Manhattan, imho. The bun there is awesome.

I had jury duty this summer, and I was actually picked, but it was a civil case in the state court. The absolute worst thing about it was how much information was cherry picked, and how much of the crucial stuff was left out.

You'll know what you need to do, depending on whether you want to get on a particular trial or not.

Thanks for the tip, Ianqui. I'm a huge fan of Vietnamese food.

Unfortunately, I'm going to the downtown Brooklyn courthouse.

I have served jury duty three times, and I have not been on a jury yet. I think that I actually was called for a voir dire once. I am sure that jury duty is interesting if you are picked for a case, but if you just spend the day sitting around in the courthouse, it can be very dull. So bring lots of good reading material - more than you think you need.

(1) Wear a state bar pin.

(2) Claim to have a special pair of sunglasses that can discern the innocent from the guilty.

last time I was called for jury duty i was threatened with a tobacco trial. Got out of it by giving a very condescending speech to the defense lawyers about law and economics. If journalist doesn't work, find the most insecure-looking lawyer in the room, and condescend to him or her. Works beautifully.

Wear a lapel pin signifying support for a radical animal rights organization. Then, when they try to dismiss you for cause, tell them that they're a bunch of fascists who want to pick weak-willed ninnies to mete out "justice" (make the air quotes). Tell the judge that he or she is a puppet of the phallocentric legal hegemony. Then make sure to tell them that the death penalty is applied in a racially discriminatory manner, even if you're there for civil cases.

Or don't.

I've been through this several times, in Seattle, not NYC. Take it seriously, but be prepared to be bored.

1) Take a book, and anything else you may need to sit around for hours.
2) If you get picked for a jury selection, pay attention, answer honestly, let the process take place.
3) The judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney will all be good, strong people working within the system to the best of their ability. Respect them and pay attention.
4) If you get on a jury, go for foreman: take the seat at the head of the table in the jury room; lead the discussion. Foreman selection will be the first order of business.
5) There will be at least one jerk in the room -- if you don't take the lead, the asshole might. Don't let that happen, it could jeopardize a fair verdict.
6) Jury instructions, even in simple cases, are long and tough. More reason to be a leader in the jury room...stick to them.
7) I've been on serious criminal cases where I knew the difference would be years and years in the big house...it's serious biz. But, even so, if you get put on a jury, and do your job well, you'll be very proud of yourself. Rightly so. If you send someone up the river, it'll be tough, but if you go through the process the way you should, the sleepless nights will be few...but, there is no joy knowing you sent someone to hard time for a long stretch. But, but, but.. what's the alternative? Be good.

Best of luck...

First of all, Jury duty is a civic responsibility and I trust that you, being a concerned citizen, will take advantage of this opportunity. I have been called more than a dozen times and have served on eight juries. I've been a foreman four times.

If you are interested in being selected, during the voir dire process, most attorneys (on both sides of the case) are looking for jurors who can understand their case. If you seem attentive and make eye contact when they are questioning you, that helps quite a bit. However, answer any questions honestly - remember, you are engaged in a process that demands that you be disinterested in a sense. Being forthright and confident with your answers also helps. If you answer dishonestly, besides regretting it, you may be cheating the defendant or your fellow citizens.

Pay attention to everything. Enjoy yourself if possible. During the selection process, bring a book because there may be periods where that's your best hope of lasting through the day. Once you are selected, you won't need the book!

Seeing a court function first hand is actually informative in a lot of ways. I think you have a greater appreciation for the whole system after being involved. But I have found the jury members to be the most interesting part of the experience. For the record, seven of the eight juries I've served with were made up of pretty good folks. I have only been on one jury that had people who had prejudged the issues and made decisions based on their own prejudices. I was able to stand my ground in that case, so despite the disappointment with my fellow jurors, I was at least able to cause that trial to end with a "hung jury". I am not sure if the case was re-tried, but the odds are that the next group had to be better than the last.

So have fun and do a good job!

Bring a couple sandwiches, bring something to read, and get some decent coffee BEFORE you get there. If they have any coffee at all, it'll be hog swill. Even here in the Pacific Northwest, where we take caffeine seriously, the courts don't seem to understand that justice cannot be fairly and impartially served without decent coffee.

If it's a criminal case, think about all the fun the defendant will have in PMITA prison once you send him there.

All joking about the per diem aside, I do take my civic duty seriously. I've wanted to serve on a jury since I was a kid. If they select me, you can bet I'll fight hard to be foreman.

Fart incessantly.

Whatever I gotta to do be foreman, I guess. Nobody ever said electability was easy.

Actually, Lindsay, I was called for jury duty in Brooklyn last year; bring a book, or knitting, or something to do while sitting. You will sit in a large room for hours and hours, with only a short film at the beginning for entertainment.

You may get called for a case; I was not... for a change, I wasn't even going to try to get out of it, and they let me go after 1 day!

If you do get called for a case, simply be frank about whether or not you think you can be fair... and have fun with it! If its a criminal case, the judge will be there; if its a civil case, the judge WILL NOT be there.

You are, of course, already well aware of the good places to eat up at that end of Court Street... i.e., pretty much nothing!!!

I wish I knew how to knit. It's a good portable hobby that doesn't requre WiFi.

I think I'm going to bring my copy of "Photoshop CS2 For the Real World." Blog readers recommended it, and I've been very impressed so far, but I've basically only had time to digest one or two color management chapters so far. Over 1000 information-rich pages left to go.

In addition to bringing reading material, a snack, and some REAL coffee, you might also bring a sweater. I don't know if other courthouses do this, but ours keeps the jury room comfortable while setting the climate control in the actual courtroom at “Greenland”. I guess it's to keep the jurors awake. If you’re called, be fair, be compassionate, and be patient.

I've been called for jury duty exactly once, and got dismissed (it was a negligence case involving a car accident, and my brother had been in a serious car accident, so they dismissed me).

It turns out that, although downtown Los Angeles is completely dead in the evening, it's pretty hopping at lunchtime, and there's a lot to see on your 90-minute lunch "hour." I had a nice salad at the Disney Concert Hall and seriously considered taking the self-guided tour (but didn't quite have enough time). Plus I was actually able to take THE TRAIN downtown and didn't have to figure out how to park.

Quite a nice day all around, really. Take your iPod, but play it low in case they call your name.

I've only been called once, and was let go after half a day; they had 16 candidates for an 8-person jury, and I was #16. It was a small case, DWI, so they did voir dire en banc, and then afterward the attorneys went down the list in order. Once they had eight that neither objected to, everyone else got to leave. (That's how they do it in my Texas county, anyway.)

I thought about staying to see how the trial went, but I was tired and lazy that day so I went home.

There were a couple of high-profile murder trials getting started that day. Either one would have meant at least a week in court.

My mother, OTOH, has been on two juries since she moved to NYC. One was a civil case that was settled just after jury selection; she said the judge made a little speech as he was dismissing them, saying that by showing up and getting empaneled, they had served to spur the two sides to settle rather than risk an unfavorable verdict, and thus had done their duty even though they hadn't taken any action. The other was a minor racketeering case with wiretap evidence and so forth; it sounded pretty interesting.

Sometimes I think the French system is better....

If you're charged with a minor crime your case is decided by a judge with no jury. Juries are only for cases that are really serious.

But this being the U.S., and our justice system already being extraordinarily skewed against all sorts of people, something like that would just increase our prison population exponentially without actually rendering much justice.

"Never eat Keith Ferrazzi alone" sounds like good avice.

I highly recommend checking out the Fully Informed Jury Association before you go... http://www.fija.org>www.fija.org.

Remember: "When they believe justice requires it, jurors can refuse to apply the law."

also, here's some more interesting tidbits on juries in the good ol' USA:
http://emporium.turnpike.net/P/ProRev/juries.htm>Progressive Review on Juries

Really minor infractions ARE decided by a judge without a jury. (Traffic court, anyone?) Some civil cases are also jury-less, based on an obscure, stupid process of figuring out what whether the founders in the 18th century intended, for instance, that a trial involving transatlantic fiber optic cables was supposed to be with a jury or not.

But what do I know, I'm just a lawyer.

I was called as a juror once but was booted (I suspect) by the DA. But maybe not because, during the questioning it occurred to me that defendant's lawyer looked like Cirroc -- you know, Phil Hartman's "Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer" -- and I had to work hard to suppress laughter.

We both live in a small town, so I see this lawyer every so often. He looks nothing like Cirroc. This frightens and confuses me, but I do know one thing -- that defendant is a free man today (I tracked the trial).

Have fun.

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