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Jury Rights and Comforts

An article on jury service grabbed my attention when it mentioned a judge handing out chocolate chip cookies. Plus, I refuse to acknowledge why Twitter is so fascinated with Baby Hitler. So,on to the cookie story.

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But first, some background … no, not on the cookies!

It’s exciting to think that a prospective juror would show up with excitement to hear a case. The reality is that they feel inconvenienced; angry at the parking; and hopeful that they get to go home early.

In Greenville, South Carolina, a jury panel shows up to the Courthouse and is directed to the basement. There, they are asked to watch a film on jury duty that was recorded several years ago. Usually, there are at least 100 people gathered on folding chairs in that room.

Soon, lawyers with cases that might be called during that term are brought downstairs to watch all the jurors stand, and be called by name.

The first time that I participated in that process, I realized that unless I had a photographic memory, I wasn’t getting much by watching over 100 people stand and sit. I suspect that it feels very impersonal for the prospective jurors as they popped up and down while their name was called.

Arizona is the only state that I know, who formally has enacted a Juror Bill of Rights. It begins with the statement that JUDGES, ATTORNEYS AND COURT STARFF SHALL MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO ASSURE THAT ARIZONA JUROR ARE… and then it lists twelve items. The first involves courtesy and respect and the last involves being paid.  Yes, that statement is printed in all caps. I didn’t want you to think that I was hollering.

A District Judge in Sioux City, Iowa, is also taking treatment of jurors very seriously. He says that he uses the acronym WWJW as an approach to jury trials, and he means by that What Would Jurors Want?

In an upcoming article that he has written for the Arizona State Law Review, he is proposing his own Bill of Rights for Jurors. Here is a condensed version of his list:

1) The right not to have their time wasted with “unnecessary, cumulative and excessive evidence.

2) The right to be told during jury selection in civil trials exactly how long a trial will last, minus the time for deliberations. Bennett and his law clerk use an online chess clock to measure time limits during the trial.

3) The right to have plain-English jury instructions before opening statements. Bennett’s instructions “come complete with a meaningful table of content, bullet points and white space.”

4) The right to have their judge “thoughtfully consider innovations that enhance their experience and the fairness of the trial.”

5) The right to “juror creature comforts.” This includes comfortable seating and nutritious snacks. Bennett bakes cookies for the jurors in trials lasting four days or more.

Not sure that the cookies count as nutritious… but I know some folks who would sit on the jury for a day. Of course, I know a few who can’t stand chocolate. For them… maybe a Flatbread pizza! Maybe there is a good movement afoot for making jurors happy!

And  now to our pic o’ day from my Mom:

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