A few Months ago I get my mail and find a Jury Summons for the Eighth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada giving me a reporting date in mid-October, 2010. My first response (as would be everyone’s that I can think of) is “Damn! I need to get out of this! I have things to do!” As if no one who has ever had to serve on a Jury in one of my Trials doesn’t have things to do….
I decided not to try and get out of it. After all, if I don’t serve, how can I ask others to do so? Besides, being a lawyer (and a personal injury lawyer at that) I probably won’t be picked to be on the Jury. Later, I realized I could get an added benefit of knowing what the Jurors have gone through before they get to the Courtroom. So here it is……
I took a quick read of the Summons and went online “to confirm [my] scheduled date.” Yes, the date on the summons was the date on the recording. The online system at http://www.ejuror.co.clark.nv.us was fairly user friendly. While there, I completed the Juror Questions knowing that the information would be provided to the Attorneys in the case before the Jury came in. I know this is important since I have seen the results of these questions in every Jury Trial I have been in. One of the questions asks for your employer. Often, the answer we see in the Courtroom is “Employed”…. nothing more …. just “employed.” My next duty as a prospective Juror was to remember that I had Jury duty about a month later.
The Summons advised that I should call after 6:00 p.m. the evening before to confirm whether or not I would have to appear. I put it on my desk as a reminder to call. Being who I am, I called early to see what would happen. When you call the night before ( and I called a bit early), a recording comes on and quickly goes through the Juror numbers of those that do and don’t have to appear. I listened to the recording and, “Damn!” (again), I was amongst those who had to report at 8:30 the next morning.
Heading to court as a Juror
I got up the next morning and went to the Courthouse. The Jury Commissioner’s employees validate your parking at the parking garage a few blocks away. At least the Jurors don’t have to pay for parking – as long as you park in the right parking garage. Go to the Court, up to Jury Services, and sit …. and wait …. for a while. There are a lot of people there that morning. According to the staff in Jury Services, they have a lot of Trials going that day. There are also people there from the day before who returned after completing more detailed Jury Questionnaires. It was amazing that with all those people, at least some who were grumbling, it was quiet and civilized. The Staff was courteous and efficient in getting each Jury pool together to be taken to a Courtroom by a Bailiff.
The Staff called my group after an hour or so in Jury Services. My number was near the end of the group which was good for me since I would be less likely to be a Juror in that position. We lined up and got onto the elevators to go to the Courtroom where we would undergo voir dire and, possibly, serve as Jurors. In my case, I was called to Judge Douglas W. Herndon’s Courtroom for, of all things, a personal injury Trial.
Judge Herndon gave a warm greeting to the Jury Pool. I’m sure he, as well as all of the Judges, understands that having to get to the Courthouse and wait in a crowded room is no fun for the prospective Jurors and he wanted to show his appreciation for their patience. By the way, the Jury Services room is a bit stuffy as well when its crowded. At least it wasn’t a hot summer day when I was in there.
The Juror Process
The Court and the Parties conduct “Voir Dire” of the Jury to enable the parties to determine which Jurors might have biases or prejudices, which Jurors should be excluded and which Jurors would be able to judge the case fairly and evenly. ”Voir Dire” basically means “to tell the truth” and, in the case of Jury questioning, it means that the Jury should disclose any of their biases or prejudices or any information that may lead one to believe they have any biases or prejudices.
The Judge started with the typical information and asked the Attorneys to introduce themselves, their clients, the witnesses they intend to call during Trial and give a brief description of the case. Having recognized one of the Plaintiff’s attorneys and having seen an enlarged photo of vehicle damages, it was clear that this was a personal injury case before they began to talk. The Attorneys do as requested and the Judge begins the voir dire.
Judge Herndon asks if anyone knows any of the Parties – no one responds. He asks if anyone knows the attorneys. Up I go…yes, I know one of the Plaintiff’s Attorneys and we occasionally exchange ideas on the Nevada Justice Association listserve. The Judge asks if anyone knows any of the witnesses who might be called. Up I go again – yes, I know all of the doctors who treated the Plaintiff for the personal injuries caused by the accident. That’s about it for me as a Juror that day. I’m pretty sure Defense Counsel (who I can’t recall ever having a case against) requested that I be excused from Jury Duty. Perhaps the Court and Counsel all agreed it would be best if I didn’t serve as I am too familiar with the subject.
The Judge thanks and excuses several of us and sends us back to Jury Services. I get in line and give my I.D./Badge back and that’s it – no second call and no coming back the next day. I’ve done my Jury Service for the next couple of years or so.
Having sat through Jury selection (and having actually served on a Jury in Los Angeles, California) this is my advise for attorneys who try cases before Juries. Remember, Jurors are people and they deserve respect. I will tell you that Jury Services does do a good job of not treating them like mere numbers. I saw one staff member very kindly help an older gentleman who had come to the wrong courthouse get to the United States District Court building where he was to serve his Jury Service.
Even so, Jurors are herded into a crowded room then, when it is their turn, lined up numerically to march up to the courtroom where they are again lined up numerically. It can only benefit us Trial Attorney to do our best to show the Jurors respect and gratitude for taking time out of their lives to serve as our Jurors and, even, prospective Jurors.
Realize that by the time they get into the Courtroom they have been in the building for a while. Depending on the schedule in your Courtroom, they could have been there for several hours before coming into the Courtroom – remember, they may get there at 8:30 and have to wait for the Court and the Parties to be ready to proceed. Based on this, I think any matters that have to be heard outside of the Jury’s presence should be kept to a minimum before the Jury is picked – that leaves less people waiting around for us then going out and telling their friends and family of this bad experience.
That’s about all I have to say specifically as a result of having been called to serve as a Juror on this occasion. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to be a prospective Juror so I could experience what they do before appearing in a Courtroom to help me resolve my cases.