I recently had the privilege of being summoned to appear for jury duty in Broward County, Florida, where I have lived for almost 30 years. Unlike almost everyone I know, I was not dismayed, afraid, or angry to receive my jury summons. I was, in fact, somewhat happy about it, as well as hopeful that, while it was doubtful I would ever be selected for the jury, I would at least make it to the voir dire process that is part of every jury selection. I made it! I was Juror #4, seated in the jury box, on a civil jury trial involving an automobile accident. As is typical, the judge required all of the prospective jurors to answer, orally, several questions that were printed on a piece of paper that had been placed in all of our seats. Imagine everyone’s surprise when, in response to the question regarding my employment, I informed the judge that I am a social psychologist who, for the past 30 years, has been employed as a JURY CONSULTANT. I went on to say, while everyone in the courtroom watched and listened with rapt attention, that my job includes having conducted thousands of mock trials and focus groups, assisting attorneys in selecting hundreds of juries in trials all over the U. S. A., preparing witnesses to testify, and in general, helping lawyers do the best job they can do on behalf of their clients. The judge looked quite shocked, to say the least! The judge then began to “grill me” about whether my vast experience as a jury consultant would, in any way, impair my ability to be a fair and impartial juror on the case for which I had been summoned. I kindly explained that, although it is socially desirable for everyone who is asked about their ability to be fair to say “Yes,” in fact, I believe I could be fair. I expounded on this answer to reveal I have recently completed the Supreme Court’s training program to become a certified Circuit Civil Mediator and, during the program, I was repeatedly told how fair and impartial I am, such that I will be a great mediator. At this point, all eyes were focused on me and the courtroom was as quiet as I have ever heard a courtroom be. The judge, however, did not stop there; instead, the judge asked me if my busy schedule would allow me to be a juror on the case. I enthusiastically said “Yes,” before explaining that the only conflict I had during the trial period was a webinar I would be presenting at the invitation of The Florida Bar, that will be presented to all members of the Bar. I quickly explained that I thought the topic of this invited address would be of interest to the attorneys in our courtroom: The title of my speech is “Jury Selection: Are You Ready?”. After this, the judge finally relented and went on to Juror #5! I was then questioned by the plaintiff’s attorney who, as it turned out, is a young attorney who works at a law firm that happens to be among Magnus’ clients. Thus, after spending an entire day in fulfillment of my duty as a citizen, I was “challenged for cause” and sent home. More thoughts on my interesting day will follow in future posts.
I’m not certain, but I think I’ve been called for jury duty about 5 times since moving to Broward County in 1991. On two occasions, after arriving at a very early hour, and spending several hours in the jury assembly room enduring the tedious process, I was sent home without going to a courtroom. On 3 occasions (one in Federal Court and two in State court), I made it to the questioning round, and once, I was seated – see https://magnusinsights.com/2017/02/jury-duty/ These were interesting experiences, but ones with few surprises. Like Melissa, everyone in the courtroom when I was called for jury duty was curious about my occupation. On the case for which I was kept on the jury, the other jurors were very surprised to have me deliberating with them. They looked to me to explain what we were supposed to do – and, as noted in the other post, I was, not surprisingly, the foreperson. As trial consultants, we depend on our neighbors, other citizens, to show up and participate as jurors. Many people whine and scheme to get out of it. But, for ordinary citizens, being randomly called to serve as jurors is an important responsibility, and an important right and duty. Go when called, verdicts and people’s lives depend on it!