Not too long ago I received a Jury Summons from the Orange County Superior Court. I’m embarrassed to admit that at first, I wasn’t very excited to be down at the courthouse at 7:45 a.m. and possibly lose a week or two from work. I think most people probably feel the same way.
Although during my 27 year career as a lawyer, I’ve taken more than 64 cases to trial (most were jury trials). I’ve never been selected to serve on a jury and never had the chance to see what it’s really like to be back in the jury room and deliberate about what a verdict should be. Each time the judge or lawyers find out I’m a trial lawyer, I’m thanked and “excused” from the process.
I suppose for the above reasons I think Tuesday will end up being an exercise in futility. But I truly hope that’s not the case.
You see, after talking about my potential jury service with my partner and family, I was reminded about how jurors have protected our laws and citizens for hundreds of years and it truly is the best legal system in the world. On a more personal level, the truth of the matter is that well intentioned jurors have positively impacted the lives of many of my clients and in some cases, have helped change California law for the better.
It’s an amazing legal system that most of us just don’t think about all that much.
In fact, I guess I just needed to remind myself of the importance of jury service the same way I do with potential new jurors during voir dire (jury selection) in my own trials. During voir dire, I try to put some time aside and talk to the prospective jurors about the significance of the American jury trial system and how important it is to serve as a juror.
The jurors and I usually discuss Thomas Jefferson’s comments about serving as a juror as possibly being just as important as casting a vote in an election or even serving in our armed forces. Some agree and others disagree. The important thing is that we talk about the issue and get to know each other and the entire process better.
In some cases to try to emphasize the power of serving on a jury, I also like to share the following quote from a letter written by Thomas Paine to Tom Paine in 1789. In it, Jefferson wrote, “…trial by jury…the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution…”.
Looking back on the past couple of weeks, I feel like I’ve been sitting in the jury box watching a lawyer standing in front of us and listening to him or her having a discussion with my fellow jurors sitting on my left and right about the importance and value of serving as a juror. While this is happening, I’m looking in to the eyes of the accused in a criminal case or family who may have lost a loved on in a civil wrongful death case. From my actions and attention, I want them to know that I’ll be the type of juror they want on their case and will listen to the evidence in a fair and impartial fashion and render a just verdict.
I hope I’m selected this week to serve our local community as a juror. I hope I’ll have a chance to right a wrong and help someone obtain justice.
If so, I’ll share my experience and thoughts with you once the trial is over. Wish me luck!