On November 25th of 2013, I was called for Jury Service in Hennepin County. It was incredibly educational and insightful. I believe it should be a requirement for all attorneys to do jury service.
Here is what I learned, and what was reinforced in terms of what I believed. 1. The vast, vast majority of cases are always settled. As an example, the first day I had jury duty, the court system tells you how many jury trials are scheduled for that day. In my case, there were 130 cases scheduled for “trial” on November 25, 2013. By 4:00 p.m., they were all, and I mean all settled.
Next, I learned jurors get paid $10.00 a day from the State of Minnesota. I learned, as I always suspected, that a chunk of jurors are anything but happy being on jury duty. I talked to probably 50+ people waiting, with me for jury service. You sit in a basement of the downtown court house with NO T.V. Many people are stressed out about missing work (including me). A small percentage of people I spoke with were excited to deliberate on a case. The majority expressed sentiment such as there are too many lawyers and questionable lawsuits. Many jurors were skeptical.
On my second day, I was called to sit on a domestic abuse case. However, when the attorneys found out I did criminal defense, I was excused (kicked off the case) and had to go back to sit in the basement of the Courthouse.
The take-away is that jury trials really should be the tool of last resort for resolving a dispute you have with others. The jurors who would likely decide your dispute (if you had one) would have little if any knowledge of the subject matter regarding your lawsuit. The jurors would not have any idea who you are, or what type of person you really are. Some jurors would simply not care about your case and would be distracted by work obligations and family matters. You may get lucky having a jury who really cares about you and wants to do the correct thing. However, this situation would be in the minority.
There were “kids” as young as 19 on jury service. I have a wonderful son, Danny, who is 20. Do you really want a 19 or 20 year-old person to make a forever decision on one of the most important affairs in your life. It’s scary. There were jurors who were retired. Some were just “goofy”. I guess the jury pool only mirrors real life and that’s what you get, a jury of your peers (or those who represent all walks of life in our community).
The American Jury System is the best in the world, yet, it’s a big gamble taking your case to trial. It’s like going to a Casino you know nothing about and going to a slot machine you have never seen before. You get one pull (one shot at the jury). Do you do it, or take the sure bet and settle.