I am a good little citizen.

I got a jury duty summons in the mail today! Yay! I really want to serve on a jury… hopefully I get called for some nice commercial case where they actually want educated people. (It is fed court, so that’s distinctly possible.) And hopefully I can convince them to not exclude me simply on ex-lawyer grounds. I’ve wanted to see the actual inside of a jury room for years. Deliberative democracy in action!

Actually… I hope they screw up the questionnaire and don’t ask about *former* occupation. My occupation right now is “grad student.” Though I’ll probably have to tell them about the whole having a JD thing anyway.

In related legal news, I got an e-mail from some paralegal at Amazon.com asking me to call her to discuss the offer I made in my demand letter. Won’t have time to do so until Thursday, but looking forward to hearing what they have to say.

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9 Responses to “I am a good little citizen.”

  1. Steve M. Says:

    Conversation known to have happened during jury questioning in a college town (not a transcript, of course — and this account comes from the professor herself, so the story may have been embellished, either by the professor or by me):

    COUNTY PROSECUTOR: What do you do for a living?

    PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR: I teach at the University.

    CP: What do you teach?

    PP: Mostly political philosophy. I’m a professor in the philosophy department.

    CP: Okay. Uh, well, when sitting on a jury, could you set aside your own views and be objective?

    PP: What do you mean?

    CP: Well, if we really proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated a law, would you feel obligated to vote for a verdict of guilty?

    PP: What kind of law?

    CP: Any law.

    PP: Any law … ?

    CP: [Speaking to JUDGE, interrupting PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR.] We move to strike for cause.

    JUDGE: Granted.

  2. Steve M. Says:

    (PS — that was not written by the professor. She just tells the story.)

  3. Paul Gowder Says:

    That’s hillarious. Though, did she want to be on the jury? Because I could totally come up with honest ways to answer that question “yes” that would nonetheless preserve my right to not enforce unjust legislation… even within positivism…

  4. Mike Says:

    In L.A. County, they ask if you or anyone else has a connection to the legal field. Don’t know about S.F. Good luck!

  5. Steve M. Says:

    Agreed that the question was poorly worded. Among other things, it’s not sensitive to a number of views about the Sixth Amendment. Although if you have one of those views in mind, just saying “yes” without qualification is misleading. The prosecutor’s meaning is clear enough. Question for debate: Setting aside current law, it’s never been clear to me how much room prospective jurors should have to cleverly omit information the questioner clearly wants. In discussion with friends, I’ve entertained the notion that, since prospective jurors have a right to sit on a jury unless properly struck (think of the Supreme Court’s actual argument in Batson), their only obligation is to answer questions truthfully as asked. It’s the lawyers who have to probe; if we’re going to let them shape the jury to suit their case then they actually have to do the work. I’m not really comfortable with the dishonesty, but then again, I sometimes flirt with the idea of totally random juries. (The whole process of molding the jury so you can get a result you want defeats the purpose of having one. It’s like gerrymandering — the Congressman can choose his voters!) Lawyers seem not to like this discussion.

    As for the prospective juror in the story, like most people who think about these things for a living, I’m pretty sure she would have loved to get on the jury. I think what we have here is honesty combined with an absolute inability to resist pointing out the most obvious problem with the question.

  6. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    I just honored a jury summons, for a murder trial in Harris County, no less. (In case anyone doesn’t know, while I love Houston – shut up, Paul! – the criminal injustice system in Harris County is pure concentrated evil. Literally.)

    The greenhorn prosecutor’s voir dire was terrible, so I had to raise my hand and indicate the existence of some information he might want. (Was specifically referring to the patent unreliability of eyewitness testimony, a subject on which I work in relation to law and neuroscience). But I was an appellate lawyer in another life, and did not wish to taint the pool by announcing this to the entire room, so I requested to speak at the bench with counsel.

    Defense attorney was clever, though. He saw my occupation on the card (professor at a med school + attorney), my age, my last name, etc., and took a wild guess that I might have something to say about eyewitness testimony. Got going for about 3 minutes with me before DA finally woke up and objected.

    Needless to say, I did not get on the pool. I’m amazed at your (Paul)’s interest — the last thing in the world I want to do is serve on a jury.

  7. ben Says:

    Because I could totally come up with honest ways to answer that question “yes” that would nonetheless preserve my right to not enforce unjust legislation

    Isn’t it the case that when you’re deliberating, you’re by yourself? What could you say during voir dire that might endanger your right not to enforce unjust legislation? Who’d know?

    Or might your fellow jurors rat you out?

  8. eric Says:

    I was once stricken for cause, and reprimanded by the judge, because, in response to an item on the questionnaire, I said (truthfully) that I would be less inclined to believe the testimony of a police officer. Both the ADA and the PD laughed, but the judge was really angry.

  9. mariana Says:

    How exciting to serve on a jury, I would love to do it myself, I always want to have that chance of performing a really different thing from everythingelse I did. I could have been called while I was living in the states I guess, but sadly now I have now chance we do not have that system in argentina. I am capable of going back just to have the experience of being in a jury for once in my life.

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