Why Jury Duty Matters

This post was originally written in October 2012 when I was working for LexBlog. It was posted on the Client Services team blog, Please Advise, and can can now be viewed on LXBN. Re-posted here with permission by @kevinokeefe.

I was out of the office for the better part of two days this week, having been summoned for jury duty. I have always believed that jury duty is a civic responsibility and I made arrangements to be there, but I was not exactly excited at the prospect of having to find non-existent time in my already packed schedule to serve. In the end, I was excused from having to sit on a jury, but regardless, I must say that I discovered a new found respect for our judicial system through my experience.

As someone who is immersed daily in conversations with our clients regarding how they conduct the business of law, it can be easy to forget that everything we do here at LexBlog ultimately supports the practice of law. When I first joined LexBlog (exactly 2 years ago, Sunday), I noticed how much it helped me to actually go visit law firms and see their actual day-to-day goings on. Spending a couple of days in the midst of the legal system only served to deepen that appreciation even more.

It is easy to be cynical about the US justice system and of course it is not without it’s flaws, but I was struck by the efforts we go to in this country to ensure folks are given as fair a trial as possible. Serving jury duty is basically the Constitutional right to a trial by a jury of your peers come to life. I was also moved by just how human and emotional the jury selection process can be. In the day and a half I sat through the voir dire process, there were tears, laughter, confusion, anger, and respect all represented amongst the potential jurors. Some folks were glad to be there, others wanted any excuse to leave, but yet all took the responsibility to appear seriously, whether they wanted to be there or not.

It also occurred to me that the ability to have a jury of your peers requires the expertise of those educated in the law.  Without lawyers to translate our complex rules and regulations into something any of us can understand (and, too, without judges to keep order in the proceedings), the process might as well be relegated to the type of vigilante justice sometimes seen in the court of social media. To those of our clients who serve our courts in this capacity, I thank you.

And, what ran through my mind more than anything else as I contemplated being called to serve on a jury was how I might feel if I was on the other side of the table. None of us can know what events in the future might put us in the position of needing a jury of our peers to decide our fate. I can only hope should that day ever come for me, that the people summoned will show the same respect for the process that I endeavored to show.

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