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New York City meets Munich

Pick me! PICK ME!

June 4th, 2002 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Getting on jury duty does not mean you will actually get to be on a jury. It just means you get to go down to the courthouse and be considered for jury duty. I got to sit around in a big room, full of chairs, and wait with a bunch of other restless people. Then they draw our names out of one of Mike Bloomburg’s old baseball caps, and send us off in packs to see if we have the “right stuff.”

Before you get on a jury for a case, you need to be selected. The selection process in New York means twenty people are pulled into a room which is much too small, and the lawyers get to ask a bunch of questions. This is to select eight jurors, two of which will be alternates. For a criminal case, they’d select thirty people, and it’s a much more complicated production. I only got to see the selection process for a civil case, which is a bit simpler. For instance, during the selection, it was just twenty fidgety potential jurors, and the two lawyers. If we were being considered for a criminal case, there would have been a court reporter there to transcribe the proceedings.

The selection process is interesting, because basically it goes like this:

LAWYER: So Mr. Jones, are you capable of rational, dispassionate decision making?

MR. JONES: Nope. I just go with my gut.

LAWYER makes a note on a pad.


LAWYER: I see. Okay, how about you, Ms. Smith, are you capable of rational, dispassionate decision making?

MS. SMITH: I don’t think so. Oh, and I think personal injury lawyers are the spawn of the devil.

LAWYER makes another note on the pad.


LAWYER: Thank you for your candor. Let me try to speed this up. Is anyone here capable of rational, dispassionate decision making?

Six hands go up among the twenty potential jurors sitting in the room.


LAWYER: Alrighty. And of you six people with your hands up, how many of you don’t think personal injury lawyers are the spawn of the devil?

Three hands go down, leaving only three hands remaining up. LAWYER makes another note on his pad.

LAWYER:I think we’ll need more prospective jurors.

Since I’m a nerd, I can appreciate that the role of a juror is like that of a referee. Being on a jury is an artificial situation, and something to be treated like a science experiment. Unfortunately, most of the people in the room only encounter the word “science” when it’s followed by the words “fiction movie.”

After I confidently said “Yes, I can make rational, dispassionate decisions, and no, I don’t hate lawyers,” the lawyer wanted to know if I’d prefer being on a jury to going to work. I was honest. I said “I’d rather be on the jury.”

So I got picked. And my advice to anyone who has to do jury duty, but doesn’t want to get stuck on a long case, just say all the wrong things during the selection process, and you will be out in the shortest possible time. Especially if you use the “spawn of the devil” line. It’s the closest thing you can have to a “get out of jury duty free” card.

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