I have never been called for jury duty before in my not so short life.  Between my real name and career I am apparently just not what an attorney wants on a jury.  I have been called to testify and joked with the prosecutors a few months ago about never serving on a jury......  There is no guarantee that my group will even be called up but the instructions that came with the notice are vague.

Make me smart on jury duty, please. 

Tags: court, jury, lawyers, murder, service, suits, ties

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Just answer the voir-dire questions honestly. If your profession is truly problematic for the case at hand, you will eventually be excused. Also, if you have moral qualms about the allegations presented, be vocal about those early and often. Most likely, your honesty about such matters will either endear you to one of the attorney's ideal makeup for a jury, or you will again be excused.

 

Be prepared to stay all day. Bring a book, a laptop, whatever you need to keep yourself occupied for a 8 full hours. The worst part of jury duty is the waiting.

Do you want to serve on a jury for a trial, or not?  To avoid jury duty, show up early, poorly dressed, and cry.

Early - In my county, they pull the last-to-arrive out of the pool to possibly serve first.

Poorly dressed - Shows you're sloppy.  No attorney wants a sloppy person on their jury.

Cry - Might get you out on a hardship, depending on why you're crying.  Even if the judge doesn't dismiss you, one of the lawyers probably will.  If you really don't want to be there, you won't pay attention.

When they ask you "If someone is accused of a crime, how likely is it that they are guilty" answer "It depends on their race".

Wow, that's even better than "When they charged my brother with the same thing he wasn't guilty".

Assuming you're serious, here's how it goes.  I've worked on trials as a paralegal, behind-the-scenes as a lawyer, and have been called for jury duty myself.

1.  You may not have to show up at all.  Different jurisdictions have different procedures for telling potential jurors not to show up because cases settled, lawyers aren't ready, etc.  Presumably that information is in your paperwork.

2.  Assuming you have to show up, first you'll go to a big room with everyone else who has to show up.  It's usually several times the number they need for a jury.

3.  They'll be some procedure, either with a bailiff, clerk, or the judge to hear hardships.  They'll explain what that means.  That's people who are too sick, or need to care for a family member, or have a pre-paid vacation, etc.  If you fit one of the categories, speak up.

4.  They'll do for-cause dismissals.  Basically, they'll ask if you know the lawyers, judge, parties, witnesses, or court staff.  If you have inside information.  If you do, speak up.

5.  Then they'll do more detailed voir dire.  In the cases I work on now, we do this on paper.  Everyone who's left from steps 3 and 4 fills out a questionnaire.  Then the lawyers review these.  Other times, they do it out loud, either one-by-one or in small groups.  This is the lawyers' opportunity to get a sense of your personality and prejudices.

6.  If you get on a jury, you'll be instructed by the judge.

a.  Everything the judge says about face-to-face, printed materials, the telephone, etc., applies to the internet, too.  (No research, no discussing the case.)

b.  Sometimes the judge's instructions are insufficient.  He'll tell you how to ask for clarification.  Sometimes they're still insufficient.  On behalf of the system, I apologize.

c.  There's still a lot of waiting.

d.  In a lot of ways, jurors control the courtroom more than even judges.  Everyone else is getting paid, and will still get paid if they have to start over.  If there's a problem with the jury, all the jurors' time has been wasted.  So, if you need something (clarification, more frequent breaks, etc.) speak up (usually by telling the bailiff)

I am not trying to get out of jury duty.  What happens IF I get called and am selected?  Dress?  Procedures?  Expectations?  What should I be careful NOT to do, wear, say to avoid being let go immediately? 

I have noticed that lawyers here seem to have a more strict uniform code than the Army.  Matching grey suits, pastel shirts, mediocre black shoes, blue tie, and no accessories except wrist watches.  The last jury that I testified in front of looked like slobs who didn't want to be there. 

Clothes - In the Bay Area, a suit on a juror looks over-eager.  Most lawyers I know don't wear suits when they're called for jury duty.  If you're dressed at either extreme of formality or sloppiness, the lawyers won't like you.  Also, avoid anything that stands out (pink hair, cartoon tie, and anything strange for your region even if it's not strange elsewhere, eg, cowboy boots in San Francisco)

Say - You want to appear conscientious, but not like you think you're as smart as the lawyers.  Smart jurors are wild cards.  Also, don't express passion, even if you think the topic is unrelated.

Do - Don't display over-eagerness.  Just like lawyers don't want jurors who really don't want to be there, they generally don't want jurors really excited about it, either.  True or not, we think the over-eager have pre-formed opinions on the process, and we're looking for open minds. 

But they'll explain everything once you get there.  They don't want to have to send people home for stupid mistakes, like getting lost in the courthouse or speaking out of turn.  It's a lot like your first day of junior high.

I can see the lawyers not liking smart jurors.  Once you know statistics, statements about probabilities of duplication or being someone else take on a whole different meaning. 

I regularly see see events that are 1 in 3 million happen repeatably with in a 3 hour window.  It kind of skews your view on the statement that "the odds of that are x in a million". 

As a civil defense attorney, the lore/conventional wisdom on jury selection doesn't really make sense to me.  Our main concern is avoiding people who will want to find liability just because there's an injury, or will want to find big damages just because there's a big injury, without regard for the law or mitigating circumstances.  So we want conscientious, rule-following people.  But people who are TOO smart are wild cards.  They'll create loopholes for whichever side they favor.  They're also likely, so the thinking goes, to become foreperson, and lead the jury to their position.Honestly, I think a lot of it is attorneys' egos and trying to fit in the old stereotypes and prejudices, though they can't do so explicitly.

P.S. I could link to the 15 pages of instructions you'll get if you're selected to sit on the jury - before the lawyers even give opening statements - but just being so eager you've already reviewed the instructions is one of those things that will cause the lawyers to use one of their preemptive strikes to send you home.  Seriously, just pretend you're a B-student on the first day of high school.  This is like registering for the draft, not like completing your tax return.

Thank you.  That is pretty much the sort of advise I have been looking for. 

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