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Hogarth judge

November 2017

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Hogarth judge

Jury duty

Yesterday, I went to court in obedience of a jury duty summons.

It was a civil case involving an auto accident. Two local lawyers I knew represented the plaintiff; one local lawyer I knew and another I sort of know represented the defendant. I got to watch a fairly nice orientation video produced by the Indiana Judicial Conference about jury service and its importance to the community. In it Randall Shepard, the Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, tells of how he went down for jury duty.

Having the Chief Justice in your jury pool would present an intriguing quandary for any trial lawyer. I think the judge would be just as nervous. I had considered calling the court and begging off, since as a lawyer I figured I did not stand much of a chance at actually serving, so that my showing up and being questioned would waste the court's time. But if the Chief Justice shows up for jury service, I suppose I ought to as well.

I guess I am too scrutable. Of course, the lawyers begin to argue their case in their voir dire questions; that's what all the books say to do. The plaintiffs have retained a "jury selection consultant" who is sitting by the table along with her lawyers. The plaintiff herself is an elderly woman with a perpetually glum and solemn expression, as if she is at a funeral. The defendant has been medically excused from attending, and his lawyers have conceded fault, but contest the plaintiff's damages entirely. Having been told this, I realize of course that this is entirely about insurance money. I'm initially inclined to give the plaintiff whatever she asks.

The jury consultant, though, draws the first raised eyebrow from me. The defendant simply tells us that he won't be here because he is medically unable to attend. I get the impression that the defendant is also quite elderly, and may have memory issues that would make his presence at trial unhelpful. Usually you want to humanize the party you are representing; to forego that opportunity must mean that the defendant is really addled or unsympathetic, even more so than the plaintiff. I can only speculate about the defendant's medical condition.

The plaintiff, by contrast, goes through an elaborate pantomime in which they tell the prospective jurors that the plaintiff is going to be medically excused from parts of her trial. They say that this is because she is simply unable to endure hearing the testimony of her friends and family about how she has declined since the collision. This is where they lose me. I suspect this is all being done by the Stanislavski method, and I absolutely despise being emotionally manipulated. This case is all about medical causation and money in any case, so it hardly seems necessary. I'm sure my expression at this announcement led to my being struck from the jury.

Comments

Utter ballocks. She can't abide hearing about something she allegedly lives with every day?

On another level it all sounds so damned sad... all of it. Two people at the end of their lives going through this nonsense. And the things people get talked into. And all of it.
Yeah. . . on the one hand, sad stories are the business of the courts. On the other hand, you really start losing at least my sympathy when you realize that you're being sold a bill of goods.

The juror who was struck just before me was a registered nurse who had a graduate degree and on the job experience caring for brain injury patients. After me, a local investment broker whom I know was also struck. On the other hand, another elderly gentleman who admitted on the stand that he had some memory problems and that he used to be a drug addict was apparently empanelled. I suppose I should feel honoured at having been removed in light of their apparent criteria for selection.