It’s NBA playoff basketball time so it’s probably a bit predictable that I have managed to combine law and basketball into my Monday blog. That’s because I went to the Wizards/Hawks game on Saturday night in Washington D.C.
Here’s a picture of me at the game during the game-winning shot by Paul Pierce. Looking at this crowd and trying to search for me is like asking you to “find Waldo”.
You can see me in the bottom left corner of the picture, standing just above the photographers in a blue jacket and blue shirt… looking “fan crazy”. A shot at the buzzer will do that to a fan. At least that’s my excuse! I suspect that you are still having a hard time finding me! That’s the power of a crowd.
Several years ago I met an NBA referee from Virginia. He was officiating back in the 1990’s. I asked him what it was like to referee a game with Michael Jordan playing, and whether it was hard to do it. He described it as if the power of Jordan walking on the floor was much like attending an Elvis Presley, and that you couldn’t help but be impacted by it.
He hastened to add that he quickly adjusted. I guess that he didn’t want me to think that his officiating could be influenced by the cult of personality. When I look again at the screaming crowd on Saturday night, it makes me wonder how any official can avoid being influenced. I guess that’s part of home court advantage.
It reminds me of being an official of faculty basketball, as a freshman at Bob Jones University. The entire league was made up of teams from the college professors. And, the president of the university was also playing… Dr. Bob Jones III.
I remember calling one foul on him where he just stared at me after I blew the whistle and made the call. Tough times for a mere college freshman! Years later he laughed about that when I told him that story. I have to admit… I was influenced.
During my jury selection for a case trial, I try to ask questions that are intended to reveal any bias or prejudice. Sometimes I will receive an answer from a prospective juror that will reveal one of those characteristics. I have seen several potential jurors struck by defense attorneys, just because they didn’t want a juror hearing a car crash case, if that juror responded that they had previously been in a car crash. The defense attorney is sensitive to a potential bias toward my client, who was hurt in the crash.
Usually near the end of my prospective jury panel questioning, I will ask a variation of the following to the panel: “You have heard the judge describe the events of this crash and now you have some details about my client and her treatment. Based on what you heard, is there anyone who believes that they cannot be fair and impartial in this case. Perhaps something about these facts causes you to be already influenced before you have heard the case.”
I may even recite some examples of where I would be influenced. I tell them that there are just some cases that I personally could not be fair to all the parties because of the facts. That’s because we are all subject to outside influences. However, that doesn’t always mean that such influence is a bias or prejudice. In some examples, the referee of the case— the Judge, has to make that call.
And for pic 0′ day, here’s some influence and persuasion: