I last sat jury duty almost 20 years ago. I didn’t know why I had been called since, but when the jury questionnaire came in to my house late last year and I confirmed my address, I knew it was coming.
That day was a legal trifecta of sorts for me: Not only did I get the questionnaire, but on the same day I was served with subpoena to testify in a deposition, was I had been a witness to a pedestrian knockdown, and I also settled a case during jury selection. On one day I was involved three ways with the legal system: as lawyer, witness and potential juror.
And the jury summons not only came, but I got two of them, one for my local city court and one for federal court.
Would I get a chance to send someone to visit Old Sparky after we gave him a nice, fair trial?
The city court appearance was first. There were two (civil) cases on the calendar.
I was looking forward to seeing other lawyers question me, figuring this would be great fun. You could see the scenarios, couldn’t you?:
Q: Aha! Your a plaintiff’s lawyer, so you must sympathize with those who are injured!
A: Well, I have a long history of telling people no. If you don’t say no often enough you go bankrupt. Also, I guess this would be a good time to mention I’ve had two frivolous cases against me in the last few years. And that I’m the race director for a trail race where there is a great likelihood of people getting injured (waiver/disclaimer).
What would they do with those things? Would they apply the Turkewitz Beer Test? I wanted to watch the wheels turn in the lawyers’ brains. Just for fun.
So off I went last Monday to sit, only to find that the cases had both settled. Not to worry! we were told, just come back the following Monday (yesterday) as there were two more. I was called for 10 am and was out the door by 10:30.
The second Monday came and, poof!, just like that, they were down to one case, and it too had settled. In by 10, out by 10:20, and jury duty over for the next six years.
I didn’t get to watch any reactions about what to do with me.
So, was this a waste of time? Of course not.
Because the very fact that we were sitting there forced the lawyers (or insurance carriers) to take one of two paths:
Shit, or get off the can fish, or cut bait. There were no longer excuses for delays.
I’m certain that many walked out of that courthouse believing that their time had been wasted. But as someone who has disposed of many a case either at jury selection, or during trial (or deliberations) I tell you that the mere presence of the community sitting there in the box holding its finger of fate over the heads of the litigants, makes things happen.
And happen they did, though no on gave me the details.
By the way, I woulda’ been an awesome juror.