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A Lot of Answers Gush Forth

We arrived on the morning of the fourth day, October 1, 2015. We gathered in our waiting as we had all the other mornings. We waited as we had waited before. It wasn’t long, though, when the bailiff brought us back into the court room. We all sat down in our chairs and waited for the judge to signal the beginning of the next round of testimony.

Instead, the judge turned to us and announced the case was settled. The plaintiff settled out of court, so there would be no more testimony. We still got a jury day and statements that we attended jury duty all four days. We also got an opportunity to learn more about the workings of the legal system. The bailiff escorted us back to the waiting room first, though, where we waited for the judge to join us.

The judge came back and let us ask questions of the both of them first. Of course, we were all curious about jury selection. It turns out we would not know who the extra two people were, but these two people were back ups to prevent a mistrial should one of us on the regular group be dismissed during the trial for some reason.

We also found out that in civil cases, lawyers can dismiss up to 3 people with no reason needed. However, they can’t discriminate due to the right for citizens to serve on a jury. They talked about “suspect classes” as a term, where an attorney can defend the right of a juror to remain if the one dismissing a juror is not basing their judgment on a more personal bias.

The judge had been a trial lawyer himself for 28 years prior to becoming a county judge. We also, asked about whether or not lawyers could represent themselves. That seemed especially relevant to this case, since the defense represented other attorneys. Of course, they can. However, there is the immediate issue with loss of objectivity. Also, there can be some technical problems with this set up as well, but it is possible.

Lastly, the settlement was confidential, so technically we don’t know what happened. My gut guess is that the plaintiff dropped the case entirely. I can only imagine that they saw that things were going nowhere with their strategy, and they had to accept defeat. However, that is just a guess.

After asking the judge these and other questions, he asked if we wanted to go back into the court room and talk to the lawyers. All of us agreed to it, and I’m so glad we did. No one escorted us this time. They simply let us file back into our seats and look directly at the attorneys.

It was such a different atmosphere when we returned to the court room. The attorneys seemed to be joking with one another. Yes, both sides were quite amiable actually. The defense attorney who seemed hostile and pushy at first seemed like a casual conversationalist suddenly. It was as if he had been playing a character before, and now we got to see the actor behind the persona.

We asked the lawyers about jury selection and why they chose the people they chose. We even had a newly graduated woman with a law degree who just finished her bar exams as our foreperson. That was such a departure from what we would have expected, so we had to find out why. Turns out they both agreed that the case was so complicated they needed people who could follow it. They both wanted the woman as the foreperson, because the legal language was so convoluted, she could have brought her education into the mix with results either way.

It just goes to show you that when it comes to jury selection, you can’t be sure whether or not your background will make you a more likely juror. Some cases are exceptional, and you might be the exception that fits. Other cases may be more typical, and you might be a typical juror. Either way, you might learn a lot from being a juror, and let’s hope you are a juror before your are battling in a court room for any other reason.

The End.

Peremptory challenge, bias and suspect – read more on the William Goren blog

P.S. If you caught the date, you may recall that October 1st, 2015 was the day people in Oregon could could start buying recreational marijuana. Having learned so much about the jury system, I decided that day to start a new learning experience. At least, I wanted to see what the stores looked like. That’s all. I swear.

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