The Advantage Blog

Why you Want to Serve as A Juror

- August 15, 2008

We at the Tsongas firm recently had not one, but two of our own deliberate to a verdict (one civil, one criminal). Many of their friends were of course, surprised that they were seated and still more were surprised to find out that they felt very good about there experience.

When I talk to people not involved in any aspect of our 3rd tier of the United States Government I often hear questions like, “how do I get out of jury duty?” If you, the reader are also working somewhere within our judicial branch I suspect that you get this question from time to time and that many of you don’t actually want to tell your friends how to get out of jury duty because it typically involves deceiving the court and purgery on the good to bad scale is well…bad.

In the spirit of full disclosure I should say that this gives me an excuse to educate so I usually say something to the effect of, “You don’t want to get out of jury duty, you want to do your duty, you just don’t know it yet.” This is a bit over the top, but it works. Your goal is to get them to want to know more at this point. Here are some follow up approaches I suggest to get people back on the direct democracy train:

For the pragmatist–”Whatever you do, don’t actually lie. There are more judges holding jurors in contempt for shamelessly purgering themselves under oath during jury selection.”

For the patriot, regardless of political affiliation–One of the biggest motivators for many American troops to take up arms in the Revolutionary war was to obtain trial by jury. Thomas Jefferson protested the fact that King George III ‘made Judges dependent on his will alone.’ Many judges were corrupt, they wouldn’t bite the hand that feeds them. Many people died for this right that you now enjoy.

For those that already have a liberal leaning–”I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” –Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Paine, 1789. ME 7:408, Papers 15:269 ”[The people] are not qualified to judge questions of law, but they are very capable of judging question of fact. In the form of juries, therefore, they determine all controverted matters of fact, leaving thus as little as possible, merely the law of the case, to the decision of the judges.” –Thomas Jefferson to Abbe Arnoux, 1789. ME 7:422, Papers 15:283

For the person who feels powerless and wants more control OR complains about jury verdicts–”Come on you have several complaints about law, society, etc. Now’s your chance to do something about it. In our system, the state actually turns over it’s power to you. You go deliberate with the others, make a determination, and whatever you say should be done will be done and immediately, unlike voting for elected officials (you can add ‘which is representative democracy’ if you need to).

The response that I typically get at this point is something to the effect of, “but it’s so much time and expense.” I try not to be judgmental about this because I believe the typical American citizen’s expectations have not been effectively set by our education system here.

My response is something to the effect of, “That’s right, it’s a hardship, it’s a duty, it’s a sacrifice. It’s supposed to be hard. The burden is on the people to govern their society in a direct democracy (hence the term ‘peers’). But, we have the most uncorrupt system in the world because of this system and we need as many people to participate to uphold the fifth and seven amendments of the constitution” (most American give deference to the Constitution, it’s typically a winner).

You can save up the kicker or just deliver it depending on your audience and what level of a roll you are on. The kicker is, “It’s actually the only duty that you are required to do as an American outside of register for the draft if you’re a male over 18.” They look at you incredulously and you respond, “You only pay taxes if you have income.”



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