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!)
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!”
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.”
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?