One’s Civic Duty

Several weeks ago, I was on call for jury duty. Part of me wanted to be selected for a jury; part of me not. If the trial were only for three or four days, then it would be a fascinating look into our criminal justice system. And—having been retired now for quite a few years from my previous career as an attorney—it would have been fun to get back into the community for a short while. (Plus, you know, fodder for potential plot twists for my books!)

In front of the highest court in the nation

But trials can often go on for several weeks, and I have a manuscript to finish. So I was ultimately relieved when after two days calling in, the recorded voice informed me that I’d fulfilled my service and would not be needed.

Not that they would have likely wanted me, in any case. The last time I was called for jury duty, I actually got empaneled and “voir dired”—the questioning the lawyers do of potential jurors to allow them to either select people, dismiss them for prejudice (e.g., if they know any of the parties to the case, display any clearly prejudicial feelings, etc.), or dismiss them via one of their limited “peremptory challenges” (i.e., no need to state any reason).

Both sides questioned me about my past legal career, which had included both interning with the local public defender’s office as well as working many years as the research and appellate attorney for a civil law firm. And that was all it took: “Dismissed!”

My mid-morning ritual at work: PB&J

Later that day, as I was driving home from running some errands, I pulled up to a red light, and another car pulled up next to me. The other driver rolled down his window and hollered out to me, “No one wants YOU on a jury, Leslie!” With a chuckle, he pulled away as the light turned green.

I bet you won’t guess who the man was. It was the judge on the case I’d been dismissed from that morning—who’d been an attorney at my law firm for several years before being seated on the bench. (And yes, we were—and still are—friends.)

I’ve got another juror story related to that same law firm. The summer before I started law school, I sat on a jury in a tort case brought against a local motel by the family of a woman who’d been murdered at the motel. The case had exceedingly sad facts, but there was no reason to hold the motel owners liable for what had happened, so the jury found against the plaintiff.

Fast-forward two years, to the summer between my second and third years of law school. I’m interviewing for a clerkship at a law firm (the one I ended up working at for twenty years). As I walk back to my car after the interview, I spot the attorney who’d represented the motel in that case, and I go chat him up, telling him what a good job I’d thought he’d done defending the case.

A couple weeks later, I receive an offer of employment from the law firm, which letter references my “fine work on the Star Motel case.”

A day in the life of a research attorney

To this day I wonder if the finding for the defense in that case truly had any effect on their offering me the job. And would they have still hired me had they known I’d merely been an alternate juror, and thus had no part in the discussions or decision on the case?

Readers: Have you ever been selected or interviewed for a jury? Do you have any interesting stories about the experience?

44 thoughts on “One’s Civic Duty

  1. I’ve only ever been empanelled on two capitol murder cases. I was dismissed from both of them after telling them that I’m against the death penalty. These were death penalty cases (potential, I guess) in Texas. I know the one was convicted. It was a pretty sensational case. I never found out about the other.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was empaneled on a jury only once. A young man had shot his uncle. He didn’t kill him. The uncle, in a wheel chair, pointed to the dude and said, “He shot me!” We, the jury, thought, if a man was going to lie, it wouldn’t be about who shot him. So we convicted the defendant.
    The next time I was voir dired, I answered the questions honestly and was dismissed.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I remember one time, the lawyer that was interviewing said that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. I said I understand then went to tell him that if there was enough evidence to indict him for him to be sitting here getting a jury then the evidence must be in such a state that he could be…in fact both lawyers said “she’s dismissed”

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve been called for jury duty four times. I’ve been selected once, a civil matter that took two days. We found for the defendant in about 15 minutes. I felt bad for the plaintiff. It was a personal injury matter. The defendant hadn’t done anything wrong, though.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Many years ago I went to jury duty on an icy day. We sat around for 7 hours and then were told that the case had been settled. All we knew was that it was a land dispute case. The judge was bored too so he took us all on a tour of the courtroom and told us what to expect if we got chosen for voir dire. Now I’m too crippled up to serve and have to get a doctor’s note and they call me every year even though my condition is permanent. I would have loved to serve on a big case when I was able.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. The only jury I sat on was just a OUI. The defense was so pathetic that I could have done better. It was obvious that he was guilty. But we had a lovely lunch and then made our decision. But it took an extra hour to be called back to the court room because the judge was stuck in traffic on his way back from Christmas shopping as it had started snowing.
    The other time I was called, the attorneys interviewed and dismissed our entire panel. It was a vehicular homicide case. I was dismissed because my stepson is a police officer. Both were interesting experiences.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’ve only been selected for jury duty twice. Both times, the jury was filled before they even got around to asking me questions, so I spent both days sitting in a room reading. I guess there are worse ways to spend my time.

    I wouldn’t mind being empaneled at least once – especially now my employer pays me for the time I’d spend. Talk about research!

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I don’t think lawyers want mystery authors on their panels on either side, lol. We’re always the ones in the jury room who’d say, “Yes, but what if–?” I used to receive summons all the time when I lived in Brooklyn, but I never got chosen. In fact, they had so many people in the jury pool I never even made it to the second room for people whose names were called at random. But you had to show up in person to take your chances, for 3 days straight. I did get to participate in Juror Appreciation Week, though–how fun is that? We got bags with coupons for local businesses (one of them was a rug store) and I still have the mug. I am very proud of it.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I’ve never been selected to serve yet, and I’ve also been excused before because of caregiving duties. However, my dad showed up at the courthouse once and was about to serve…until the lawyer found out that the defendant had been a customer of our family restaurant!

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m DESPERATE to be called to be on a jury! I’ve only been summoned once (in 1997), which seems really against all odds since my county is not all that populated. In fact, at one time, we had more horses than people here which makes me wonder how many times they were called. I was going to be out of the country so I was excused the one time my number came up. But I’d be happy to serve on any jury, for any crime. And if we get sequestered, even better! Alas ….

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I’ve been called to jury duty semi-frequently. When I was younger and healthy, I was there. I was never chosen. (Harumph!) Later, as my health began to decline, I couldn’t attend, and my docs provided a letter as to why. My parents are still getting summoned. They’re over 70, so they just call in and ask to be removed from the list. They’ve gone too, and mom was on a jury once. Not in our local courthouse, but in Philadelphia- about an hour away. Murder trial. The defendant had zero chance. They had too much on him.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I was on a jury years ago (like 15). It was an okay experience, but nothing too exciting. I’ve been on call a couple of other times but never had to report.

    I’m currently on the hook for Federal jury duty in August, which doesn’t make me happy at all. I’m going to be on call for two weeks, and I have to go into downtown LA at 7 AM if called. Nope, not remotely happy at all. It’s one thing to have to go to the local courts and being on call for a week, but this seems much more intrusive.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. I was asked to be on a grand jury once, in TX. We met once a month for 6 months. That was VERY interesting! It was in a rural county and we knew everything that was going on there. For 6 months.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. I’ve been on 3 trials, all criminal, all in Los Angeles County. The worst was 6 weeks on a child molestation case. Very hard to listen to testimony from a young child. Also hard to be questioned for an hour and a half about everything you could think of about my life.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. I’ve been called on 3 times. Twice they never got to my name in VA. The one time in Denver I was called and voir dired, it was so long ago I don’t remember if it was bike versus car or bike versus pedestrian. They apparently didn’t like it when my answer was “I believe bikes should follow the the laws in place for them”.
    But with my job, I do have to sit through trials where I will testify. It’s hard enough for the jury to stay awake with boring testimony, imagine sitting in the gallery staying awake when you don’t get to have any input.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Okay, I’m out right now at a doc apt but I have to read these comments when I get home. Such great stories, Leslie! I have yet to serve. I almost did once. They wanted me. The case was against guys who got in a fight at a club and had unlicensed guns and silencers. I said I could never be impartial. The lawyers and judges pulled me into the hallway behind the court to get me to change my mind. I told them, “There’s no way you’ll ever convince me anyone needs a silencer except for criminal activity.” They finally gave up and let me go. And every law enforcement official I’ve told this story to has told me I was right.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I absolutely knew those guys were Eastern European mob. No doubt in mind. I also said that since my grandfather was a low-level mobster and disappeared, I would fear for my life on that jury. If you saw those guys, you would know this was not histrionics on my part.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. I was called. During voir dire, Baby Lawyer noted how long I’d practiced and commented that I must have known Judge W, the grand old man of the bench, when he was a PD. I did, I said, and he’s a year younger than me

    I got bumped.


  16. I have been called so many times and have served so many times. Thank goodness that I am over 70 so I do not have to serve again. The jury trials that I served on were interesting and I actually liked serving and doing my duty. The problem was that it was never convenient and was always so far away from my home and I had to travel so far. One city and county that I served in made you stay the entire week and if a trial was finished, you were put back in the jury pool and called again.


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