Jury Duty

erformed my civic obligation today and took the day off work to do the jury thing. Mainly, wait around all day to be picked to sit on a jury that never happens.

This is actually a form of involuntary servitude, but as the judge said we can't actually put people in jail for not answering the jury summons since the entire apparatus requires a certain sense of volunteerism or it just ain't gonna work at all. It's such a slight deal that I regard it as simply an inconvenience.

Here in Dallas County, you get a summons to appear in the central jury room on the appointed day & time. You see a little slide presentation and wait to be called to a courtroom. Then ... maybe ... they will actually field a jury but mostly the "threat to go to trial" is enough to bring the litigants to the table (settling out of court or plea bargaining). That's really the chief function of the jury system - Forcing a Resolution - i.e. if you don't do it ... we will ... right now.

This works within the context of the present system but the jury system, overall, is a miserable failure. In fact the entire judicial system of the United States is an abject failure because it cannot do better than a hypothetical "coin-toss" system. You have to have a better than 50% accuracy rate to consider yourself a success in this business.

Hence, there will always be testimonials that "Thank God for our jury system. It works. In my case justice was indeed served.".

The main reason for the failure is:

  • The sea of legal "schmeeze" that passes for logic and reason
  • The egos of the judge and lawyers
  • The money that stands to change hands
  • The amateur status of the selected jury
  • The innocent bystander status of truth in the courtroom
You already know what I mean by legal schmeeze - the lingo franco of the court which is employed to obfuscate and give the appearance of sophistication (as in a congame).

Jurors are selected by the lawyers on the basis of their "perceived maleability". Each lawyer sees himself as invincible and easily capable of besting the other lawyer. So he doesn't want anyone sitting on the jury whom he thinks he can't control. If you don't want to be selected for a jury ... just put on a mean face or an intelligent one or an intractable one. They don't want these types and will preemptorily challenge them (without cause).

Consequently, all juries are made up of those whom lawyers think are wet clay to be molded by his skillful hand. An independent mind is anathema to the legal process.

And none of these jurors has any experience at anything in law. So here we have a case of the most average guy being asked to rule on the disposition of someone else's life or on billions of dollars in settlements ... without any experience. Good God!

How do we solve this situation?

Within the context of the present system, the matter is best solved by "professional jurors".

Like this:

  • Lower the jury number to 7 (saves money)
  • Allow three choices 1)Guilty, 2)Innocent, 3)Abstain
    Abstain simply means that the evidence is "to close for me to call".
  • Have only enough jurors to fill the need each day. They put their names in a rotating drum and 7 are selected randomly to be a jury. If the pool is 100 jurors for the day ... the odds against getting the same 7 jurors again are huge.
  • Educate the jurors. They have to go to school and pass tests to be jurors. Hence, they don't need to be instructed so much by the judge.
  • They can work part time too. There are a lot of retired people out there who could do this as a two day a week job. They would find it meaningful.
  • Lawyers no longer can select the jury. What gets drawn is what you get. Exclusions for cause only (as when someone on the jury knows the litigants).
  • No more amateurs. Intelligent people will finally serve and in time they will all have a lot of experience.
  • Nobody wastes their day standing around the central jury room waiting for nothing.
  • Nothing at all would be lost. The expense would be the same, i.e. right now the cost is born by employers who have to pay out the day's salary to workers who aren't working. A form of "hidden taxation" if ever there was one.
  • Isn't this sensible?
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