Juries

How Jury Duty Almost Turned Me into an Anarchist

Metal detectors, fire evacuations, Stalinist architecture, and ideological grilling, all in one day!

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Not. |||

"Jury duty!?!?" the former aide to a certain libertarianish senator wrote me Tuesday, after I had mentioned how I was spending my day. "A very anti-libertarian and statist idea. Compulsory service to the state. I treat jury duty like I treat voting—I show up if I feel like it. And I have not felt like showing up for jury duty once in my life."

I understand this sentiment, and elect not to share it. At least I didn't until around 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon. Unlike certain nihilists around these parts, I relish each and every "I voted" sticker, and instead choose more obscure philosophical hills to die on, such as not registering for the Selective Service and trying hard to avoid workplace drug tests and loyalty oaths. Jury duty is a chance to bond with fellow citizens you might not otherwise meet, peek under the hood of our flawed judicial system, and do our small part to advance the noble democratic ideal of participatory justice.

Or so we tell ourselves. In fact, within the space of nine of the longest hours in living memory, I went from bushy-tailed civic enthusiast to eyes-glazed quasi-anarchist, ready to write "Uber, except for jury duty" over and over again on Twitter, like some kind of Buzzfeed Bart Simpson. The following timeline (with some proximate time-stamps and quotes, as I had not been planning on documenting the experience), illustrates the deterioration of an ideal.

8:04 AM: "Have fun doing your civic duty!" the wife says encouragingly, as I leave the usual child-preparation chores to her. As a recently naturalized citizen, she is even more gee-willikers about this stuff than I am. Our main two points of drama for the day: Will I be released in time to see my 6-year-old's 5 o'clock theater performance of Willie Wonka Kids? And at the ripe middle age of 46, will my jury-duty service finally result in me being, um, selected for a jury?

8:22 AM: After naively trying the locked doors at the handsome and historic Brooklyn Borough Hall, where the county courthouse used to reside, I trudge across the pockmarked, trash-strewn Cadman Plaza to a grisly slab of late-'50s architecture so brutalist that even the City of New York has a hard time keeping a straight face while describing it:

The new building was considered, at the time, to be a major addition to the Civic Center….This courthouse, along with the Brooklyn Family Courthouse, represents the 1950s Modernistic plans to transform the Brooklyn Civic Center.

Uh-huh:

Brook-lyn! Brook-lyn! ||| Matt Welch
Matt Welch

You may have heard a word or two about the gentrification of Brooklyn. Across the street from Cadman Plaza begins the fashionable and high-priced Brooklyn Heights neighborhood, with its Montague Street of "Tangled Up in Blue" (and Jackie Robinson) fame. On the other side are about a dozen cranes busily constructing luxury high rises and associated retail. Even the Fulton Street Mall, long considered to be a bit frazzled around the edges, is smartening up.

The exception to this rule is this thick, gray rectangular scar dominated by government. Despite the enviable setting just walking distance from the Brooklyn Bridge, and the usually cheering presence of farmer's markets and booksellers and flower beds, Cadman Plaza is a urine-scented dump that has the biggest sidewalk-potholes this side of Bucharest.

Speaking of communism, I spend the next 10 minutes in a metal-detector line, emptying pockets, rifling off belts, and exchanging gallows humor with my fellow citizens. Little did I know it would be the most pleasant of my three such experiences that day.

8:45 AM: In order to be prepped for that day's jury pool, my 120 or so fellow citizens have to check the accuracy of the information on our terse summonses, detach two perforated bits, fill out an additional elementary school-style questionnaire containing a handful of queries (date of birth, race, employment status), hand the results in, and listen to some orientation information (including the fateful phrase, "This will be a day to remember."). Naturally, this all takes TWO HOURS.

Part of the lag time comes from the admittedly entertaining orientation officer enunciating each basic instruction (such as, "circle the numbers containing the last two digits of the year you were born") VERY. SLOWLY. SO. THAT. EVERY. ONE. CAN. UNDER. STAND. In fact he does this twice each time, just to make sure. And, as he predicts in a series of sardonic asides, such repeated emphases fail to prevent swaths of the audience from not understanding. The Chinese-born housewife and new mother sitting next to me asked me follow-ups on about 70 percent of the instructions.

But what about me actually serving on a jury, and making it in time for Willy Wonka? Well, there's good news and bad news. Each of us, it seems, will be selected at least for consideration on a particular jury, and depending on that might participate in a trial or get dispatched at the end of the day. BUT. EVERYBODY—I. REPEAT, EVERY. BODY—WILL. STAY. HERE. UNTIL. 5. O'CLOCK. Not 4:30, not 4:40—5 o'clock. Only then will we get our certificate and be free to not do this for another four years.

(In a moment both hilarious and disturbing, the orientation officer then tells us we are forbidden by law to talk about our jury experience on social media, and then he proceeds to read tweets from people in the room, including a guy who wrote something along the lines of "Ain't NO WAY I'm staying here until fucking 5 o'clock!!")

10:55 AM: "Matthew Welch, please come to the jury empaneling room." Huzzah!

11:05 AM: As I am apparently forbidden by law to talk about this case on social media, I will be vague. It is, to my chagrin, a civil trial, not a criminal one, involving the category of incident one might see advertised in a subway car. Twelve of us from the original room of 120 are brought into a courtroom in front of three lawyers—one plaintiff, two defense, representing different defendants—as they attempt to find one last mutually agreeable member of an already-selected jury, plus two alternates. I knew that my chances of serving on this case were approaching nil; I just didn't know what this would have to do with my television career, or Walter Olson.

11:40 AM: After some cross-examination of a group of three potential jurors (sample question: "Would you be comfortable in approving what might seem like a particularly LARGE settlement, if that's where the evidence of the case happens to take you?"), the lawyers select two. There was only one slot left. Five of us—an online poker marketer, a housewife, a millennial music producer, a reform Rabbi in training, and me—are shuttled to the front row for our disqualifying questions. The plaintiff's advocate fixes his eyes upon me.

Lawyer: You know, you look awfully familiar.

Me: I do a lot of cable TV news; you might have seen me there?

L: Where?

M: Well, I co-hosted a show on Fox Business Network for 13 months called "The Independents," and I'm on MSNBC a lot.

L: Fox News, huh? You know, (at this both defense counsel start audibly sighing and thinking about objecting) I get the impression that Fox News HATES people like me.

M: (Not understanding at first what he means, and choosing my words carefully.) Well, the show was called "The Independents" for a reason. Meaning, its politics and attitudes were largely independent from those you normally see represented on cable TV, right or left.

L: So, given your background and knowledge of the legal system, do you have strong opinions about there being too many tort lawyers getting big settlements, things like that?

M: Well, I edit a libertarian magazine whose motto is "Free Minds and Free Markets," and there are definitely many libertarians who find certain high-profile settlements—like the proverbial McDonald's coffee spill—to be absurdly high and inappropriate. And in fact one of our contributing editors has a site called Overlawyered, to give you an idea. But I would also say that within libertarianism there's a broad appreciation that the civil system provides the kind of redress unavailable in places like Western Europe, for example. And at any rate, I don't have strongly held opinions about it; my strongly held opinions are about the criminal justice system.

Thus began a discussion of the media coverage of the coffee-spill case, whether I rent or own, if I live in "one of those nice brownstones" (a small portion of one, is the answer), and so on. I knew it was all over: The housewife got plucked, and the rest of us marched back to the holding pen to wait for the lunch bell.

12:40 PM: Despite the SERIALLY. REPEATED. VOW that we would only be let out for lunch at 1 PM sharp, we're dismissed early into the wilds of downtown Brooklyn. Montague Street, here I come! Maybe there was hope for Willy Wonka yet….

1:40 PM: Remembering that the metal-detector line was long and infuriating, most every juror gets back to the building 20 minutes ahead of time. Still not enough: The procession now snakes out of the building and down the courthouse steps. A security cop hears some of us grumble and waves us around to an apparently secret entrance on the side of the building. The diverted jurors quickly overwhelm that entrance, too, with the gallows humor now coming (mostly humor-free) from the guards and courthouse employees. Process takes more than 20 minutes.

2:30 PM: Fire alarm begins to ring, loudly. Despite the presence of a seemingly infinite number of law enforcement-related personnel and other authorities, no one gives instructions to the jurors—stuck as they are in a room with only one narrow exit—for nearly five minutes.

2:35 PM: We are shoveled, very slowly, into a single-file evacuation line. As we exit the juror pen, we see firemen with axes walk by, and visible white smoke.

2:40 PM: It becomes clear, standing in front of this Stalinist palace, that evacuation will take at least one hour, that no authority will have any useful information during the duration, and that the chances of any us non-selected jurors being somehow chosen between now and 5 o'clock were precisely zero. So a day full of waiting becomes an afternoon of waiting for a 100 percent pointless reason: to be handed a certificate codifying what both you and the state of New York already know.

Morale begins to sag. For reasons that are unclear, cops manhandle a couple of crazy-looking dudes on the courthouse steps, and drag them away.

4:00 PM:

And now they're making me go through the metal detectors a third time. THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE ANARCHISTS. pic.twitter.com/uldVwFNdeM

— Matt Welch (@MattWelch) May 12, 2015

The metal-detector line, as you can well imagine, is so massive that cops have to manage it 25 at a time, people without bags first, and so on. One of my fellow jurors jockeys with me to be last in line, figuring that if it goes for long enough we'll reach the 5 o'clock hour without getting through. No such luck: By 4:20, we're all back in, gasping and coughing at the acrid smell in the hallways.

4:29 PM: The courthouse clerk takes to the intercom, letting us know that—sure enough!—we of course are done for the day. It's all over now, except for the handing out of the I-served documentation. Which is done…in alphabetical order.

4:40 PM: They finally get to the Ws.

The good news? It only took one day out of my life, and I got to make the curtain-raising for Willy Wonka. The bad news? I might just have been transformed into the anti-jury-duty cynic of the opening paragraph.

When you reflect on it for a moment, most of the civic feel-good aspect of jury duty comes from the camaraderie of your fellow citizens, who are trying gamely to make the best of an absurdly planned situation. It really doesn't have to be this way: Reason columnist Greg Beato, among countless others, has proposed more consumer-friendly solutions.

To realize the scope of dysfunctionality both of the existing system and the mentality that still believes reform can happen from within, consider this: In the shoddy, VCR-style orientation video we were shown in the morning, the chief justice of the New York Supreme Court bragged that the current jury-duty system is actually the product of a historic round of customer-friendly reforms. If my day was utterly pointless and infuriating, imagine the poor saps who were doing this 10 years ago! Like Cadman Plaza itself, this is the best that governing minds, after rounds and rounds of discussion and exertion, can come up with.

Conclusion: Anarchy is looking better by the day.

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204 responses to “How Jury Duty Almost Turned Me into an Anarchist

  1. I was called for jury duty once. Talk about terrifying. These people are deciding the life fate of others? Not to mention, you are apparently supposed to sit there like you are in church waiting for the ordained ones to call your name. I got scolded by some stupid old fart who was some sort of court official for taking a drink from my bottled water will I sat there hour after hour. Apparently it profaned the sanctity of the institution. Fucking assholes.

    1. I guess it depends on the local potentates. When I lived in Hunterdon County New Jersey, the waiting room had bookshelves and even a book or two I was interested in reading.

      I was excused shortly after they asked what magazines I read. I listed REASON, which may or may not have anything to do with it.

      The one time I have been summoned since moving to Bucks County PA, I negotiated off because at the time my Lady’s health problems were flaring up. They didn’t want to let me go regardless until I pointed out that, as a Libertarian, I was certain to be struck from ay jury pool by one lawyer or another, and I didn’t see the point in being filler when my Lady was ill.

      Haven’t heard from them again. Maybe I’m on a list of wisenheimers.

      1. Bucks, huh? me too. Called twice to Doylestown in the 30 years I’ve lived here and never selected.

      2. Here in Somerset County New Jersey they have wifi, magazines, coffee, and many of us brought laptops and tablets.

        1. In New York we get to surf the net, tweet news coverage of the blogging cases and figure out when impersonation is funny enough to qualify for “free speech” protection. If it’s too deadpan and nobody laughs in the courtroom we get to mark it up on the crime chart. We got all kinds of crimes and we get to figure out which ones the different parodies go under, a whole list of them. It’s a really fun job, and you learn all about how prosecutors nail these Internet crooks. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire case at:

          http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. Local knowledge for Matt — A friend and I often sit by those locked Boro Hall doors to talk. Every fifteen minutes or so, someone mounts the many stairs only to try the doors forlornly. We have to explain that only the opposite side of the building is open, because after the panic years ago about the one-in-ten-million courtroom shooters, they installed metal detectors but can only afford one public entrance per building in most cases, leaving all other doors on other sides permanently locked. Yes, the Boro Hall portico looks ever so much like a *front* entrance, but now it isn’t, and there’s no sign stating where the entrance actually is. Your tax dollars at work.

      About Cadman Plaza — they have nice (and expensive!) shale paving stones, but last winter they used machinery to clear snow, ripping a lot of it up pretty badly. About three weeks or so ago, they brought in equipment to fix that, and fenced off a lot of the plaza with tall construction site fencing to park equipment, erect portapotties and work trailers, and park workers’ personal cars. So now you can’t even see across the plaza. In the weeks since then, no construction has been done. Guys in reflective vests stand around talking with each other. I assume they are supposed to stretch the project out as long as possible, and whoever’s paying (Parks Dpt?) does not care how much it’s padded.

      The wonders of big govt! It’s enough to make one an anarchist.

  2. A word of warning for your next round: judges do not like to hear the a-word in court.

      1. I think that one would have gone over better.

    1. Antidisestablishmentarianism?

    2. Allopathy?

      1. Yes, if either Warty or I were the judge.

    3. Anal beads?

      Dammit, that’s two…

      1. Not if it’s hyphenated.

    4. Anchovy?

    5. Nullification?

      1. What you did there…

        has been seen…

        by me.

        That’s a -A.

    6. Ah’m-a-gonna-kill-dat-judge?

    7. Agorism? Asian? Anal? Auschwitz? Atat?rk? Alessandra Ambrosio?

      1. Articles of Confederation?

    8. Albus Dumbledore?

  3. I’ll never understand why people bother going. A summons sent by standard mail can be tossed in the trash and ignored.

    1. You can always tell the judge that you’d really rather go on a vacation to Italy. Hey, it worked for me.

    2. In Texas, at least, ignoring a jury summons is treated as contempt of court and can result in an arrest warrant being issued.

      1. Pregnant largely unenforced unless you live in a small town.

        1. Probably… Swype can kiss my ass

        2. “pregnant”?

      2. How do they prove you got it, if it just arrived by ordinary snail mail?

        1. Exactly.

        2. Scarecrow Repair|5.13.15 @ 3:10PM|#
          “How do they prove you got it, if it just arrived by ordinary snail mail?”

          Ha and ha!
          FYTW!

        3. FYTW, that’s how.

          1. Curse you, Sevo, and your fractionally faster fingers!

      3. Yup, my Ex always threw his summons away so…

        As a joke, I sent a female stripper impersonating a cop to his work on his birthday
        one year with clear instructions to the stripper she had a warrant for contempt of court.

        It was my best ever Gotcha Moment ! I have to say-the woman earned her pay.

        Thanks Matt–I needed that!

    3. In New York State, they eventually get after you. I had somewhat similar experiences to those described above, but it was much easier getting in and out (Queens) and I spent a couple of pleasant hours chatting with an old Irish guy about Queens as it used to be in the old days. There was no chance of my being selected, because I am of unorthodox appearance, but I did participate in some event where they were trying to select a jury for a big drug case and I had the faint hope that, on being questioned, I would be able to declare that I would not serve because I regard the Drug War as a crime against humanity. No luck.

      I also refused to designate a ‘race’ for myself. I suggested they write anything they liked.

  4. “Almost”? Grow a pair, Matt!

    1. And I had my first jury duty back in October, I think in the nicer building around the corner on Jay St. (I recall lining up at that abomination, and then being redirected outside of the park) It actually went quite smoothly, though I was the very last person to be called for questioning by the lawyers. It was a strange experience at that point, as their big question was whether we would consider the victim’s testimony enough to convict (or perhaps the testimony of a bystander, I don’t recall). I said that I don’t think I could convict based only one witness account, due to how unreliable our perceptions and memory can be. And this was an attempted robbery at night, so I said I’d almost certainly need more physical evidence in order to get over reasonable doubt.

      This was apparently the wrong answer, or something, because the professionals all seemed to look at me strangely and focused most of their questions to the group of potential jurors back to me. I thought I had a pretty good answer, damn it. That said, I did respect that they repeatedly emphasized the presumption of innocence, and that the accused’s refusal to testify is not evidence of guilt.

      1. They have to keep saying all that stuff about presumption of innocence. They don’t do it willingly. Yours was a very good and perfectly reasonable answer, which is precisely why you went to the top of the prosecution’s strike list.

        As the law professor told our class, “Ladies and gentleman, the last thing lawyers want is a jury of YOUR peers.”

        They want people they can manipulate, not justice seekers who might thwart their careers by thinking for themselves.

        1. served once, for a criminal trial in Virginia. A bank teller was accused of stealing cash out of her drawer. When she was fired for an unrelated incident, the managers counted her drawer and found the discrepancy with what was written on the receipt.

          The defense lawyers asked how many of the potential jurors had ever had a job where they worked on a cash register, and struck as many of them as they could. They did not want jurors who knew anything about the process.

          1. …or they did not want anyone to fail to presume innocence based on their own experience. “I worked on a cash register and I never made mistakes – she must be a thief!” Good job immediately siding with the prosecution, though. No wonder you made it on the jury.

  5. I’m due next Wednesday in Harris County. If I actually make it to voir dire the first words out of my mouth are going to “jury nullification.”

    1. Then you won’t be given the opportunity to nullify anything. In all probability you can keep your mouth shut and sacrifice a day or two of your time to help some poor schmuck avoid having his life destroyed. Given how vicious the state has become, people need to look out for each other.

      1. If it’s criminal and a drug case I may actually TRY to get on the jury.

        Me: “Did this dude kill someone?”
        Eleven other jurors: “No.”
        Me: “Rob someone?”
        Eleven other jurors: “No.”
        Me: “Not guilty.”
        Eleven other jurors: “But he had a kilo of cocaine in his boxers.”
        Me: “I stand by my statement.”

        1. I’m not sure you would necessarily know what kind of criminal case it is.

          I suppose you might be able to infer from their questions though.

          1. More than likely I’ll get the boot as soon as they find out I’m a lawyer. I can’t imagine either side likes the thought of a fellow shitheel bloviating to the other 11 jurors on “what this law really means.”

          2. The one time I had to go it was a DUI case, and they did tell us once we were in the courtroom for voir-dire, but not before. Not sure if it’s the same everywhere.

          3. Maybe local regulations vary, but every time I’ve been through the voir dire process we’ve been informed not only of the type of criminal case it is, but also many of the details.

            Trouble is, I am a well-educated, opinionated woman who founded her own financial firm after years of working on Wall Street. Neither side usually wants me on the jury and few people know anything about nullification and losing party pays. Given the minuscule probability of being chosen, I might as well inform as many of the other potential jurors about nullification and losing party pays as I can before I’m kicked out.

            When I’m old and retired it’ll be easier to play dumb. Until then, I’ll do what I can.

        2. People who are going to trial are people who were unwilling to take a plea. I imagine they fall into two camps: people who are genuinely being railroaded and therefore unwilling to plead out and people who are so guilty that they have nothing to lose by going to trial. Regardless of what the trial is about, I want to get on a jury just to make sure somebody in the room is giving the defendant the benefit of the doubt, because I don’t believe most jurors do.

          1. A lot of times the defense wants to get a look at the jury pool before coping a plea. I got impaneled (not EMpaneled) on a criminal case in DC. We sat in the courtroom about 15 minutes while various lawyers whispered among themselves, then we were dismissed by the judge, saying the prosecution and defense had come to a plea agreement.

        3. Having been through the Harris County mess a year or two ago, my experience was nowhere near as bad as poor Welch’s account. Like Loki, we didn’t get to hear what the case would be about until voir dire. I’ve had friends who were attorneys here that made it onto the jury, so don’t think that’s going to stop them from picking you. If you want to make it onto the panel, either don’t say anything at all during voir dire if you can help it, or if you must speak, try to hide any strong feelings one way or the other.

          We famously had a Federal Judge both ring someone up for contempt for blowing off jury duty, including sending Federal Marshals to grab them, and also go through jury duty himself. I can’t find the article stating it, but AIUI, he actually got empanelled. Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing, to be honest.

          1. After reading Kristen’s comment, though Collins’s dictionary accepts ’empanel’, Black’s Law Dictionary prefers ‘impanel.

            Learn something new everyday…

        4. If you do that, make sure you don’t bring up jury nullification or that you think the law is immoral. That might get you in trouble. Just say that you don’t think the evidence proves he did.

          “But here is a picture of them pulling a bag of cocaine out of his butt.”

          “That doesn’t look like cocaine to me.”

          “Here is the lab analysis.”

          “Yeah, they could have switched that or mixed it up. He just doesn’t strike as the kind of guy that would carry cocaine. Sorry. I don’t think he is guilty.”

    2. I made it that far once & the Defense rejected me. I had pretty much decided I was going to find
      the sleazebag in the Armani suit & cartoon tie was getting a by from me.

    3. I had to make that same trip a couple of months ago. It’s an hour and a half morning drive from my abode down here in paradise on the water.

      I told the judge there wasn’t a reasonable way to ensure my on time arrival every day with the reality of Houston traffic. He actually agreed with me that me having to allow an additional hour or so on top of that in case of wrecks or what not was unreasonable..

      He dismissed me. I’m thinking it was going to be a long trial.

  6. Part of the lag time comes from the admittedly entertaining orientation officer enunciating each basic instruction (such as, “circle the numbers containing the last two digits of the year you were born”) VERY. SLOWLY. SO. THAT. EVERY. ONE. CAN. UNDER. STAND. In fact he does this twice each time, just to make sure. And, as he predicted in a es of sardonic asides, such repeated emphases fails to prevent swaths of the audience from not understanding. The Chinese-born housewife and new mother sitting next to me asked me follow-ups on about 70 percent of the instructions.

    Hey, don’t ya love diversity too?

    1. And yet, I’m sure the Chinese housewife and new mother both, unlike you, understand the difference between the singular and plural form of a noun.

      Zoyg zhe mir in putz, shaygetz!

      1. Gay kokken uffen yam, halb-shvartze.

        1. Kish mir in tuchus, alte kocker mit a schtickle halva*!

          *Joyva, of course

          1. Gay kokken, ess gezuntihayt, finster.

            1. Nu, we have an internet gastroenterologist here!

              1. My mama always wanted a doctor.

      2. Look at that, the schvartze can use Google translate….

        1. Look at that schmuck showing up again.
          Fuck off.

        2. There’s a lot of Jewish libertarians it appears,why do most of you vote Demorat?

          1. Its part of our controlling-the-media thing.

            Seriously, though, you have no idea wtf youre talking about.

            Like any ethnic group, Jews are a group of diverse individuals with their own POV. Statistically, Jews skew team red over Israel.

  7. Interesting, Matt.

    If you think waiting for jury duty is bad – you should try a jury case. Or a few dozen.

    There is a reason (drink!) I am now toiling away for the Swiss, and not the State’s Attorney or my old civil clients.

    1. Difference is, you’re getting paid actual money.

      1. Chocolate coins are not “actual money.”

        1. Tell that to Jew-kids on Hanukkah.

  8. In my county I got summoned once, but they have a website you can check the night before to see if they’ll need you. In my case I was lucky, I got skipped.

    The still from Twelve Angry Men reminded me of one of the extras on the DVD for the movie. Gloria Allred talks about how the movie doesn’t reflect reality, for example explaining how the scene where Henry Fonda was able to make a decisive point by bringing in a switchblade exactly like the murder weapon that he’d bought on the street wouldn’t be allowed. As one might suspect the movie shouldn’t inform expectations about what jury duty is like.

    1. In Virginia, when called, you’re enrolled for four consecutive Mondays. On Sunday, you can check the webpage to see if you pool has to come to the courthouse. If yes, come on down and go through the selection process. If not selected, lather, rinse and repeat for three more Mondays.

  9. Do people not know how to get out of jury duty?

    It’s so damn easy.

    1. Demonstrate above-average intelligence?

      1. It should never even get to that point.

    2. Pretend to be racist?

      “Awful lot a honkies in here.”

      1. “It doesn’t matter, the nigger’s guilty.”

      2. The orientation guy said that people try a variation on that EVERY TIME, and claimed that it does not work.

        1. I can personally attest that it did, at least in California. I got a stern talking-to by the judge, but got out of there quickly, which removed the non-existing sting of his scolding.

        2. “The orientation guy said that people try a variation on that EVERY TIME, and claimed that it does not work.

          Short skit from the Whitest Kids U’ Know entitled “Juror”

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3A_jeCAfn0E

        3. Then you’ll just have to go more old school, from Sanford and Son:

          “There’s so many niggers in here, you could film a Tarzan movie.”

          1. You made reading this worthwhile,Cis….

        4. Better answer: ” yes, your Honor. Spectral evidence IS evidence and John Proctor got what he had coming to him”.

          That excuse works like magic.

    3. Throw away the summons?

      Not vote?

      Not register your vehicle in the state you happen to be in?

      Say, “I am an anarchist. I hate the government.”?

      Say, “I strongly believe in jury nullification?”

      Say, “I invoke my Fifth Amendment right to not speak to government officials.” in response to voir dire questions.

      And so on ….

      1. “I invoke my Fifth Amendment right to not speak to government officials.”

        You might want to reread that amendment. It doesn’t say that.

        1. It needn’t be true to be effective.

          1. The best answer is quotes from Agile Cyborg.

            1. That might get you committed for a psych evaluation instead of jury duty.

          2. That would probably pass in the average courtroom.

      2. “Cops always lie” works for me.

    4. My 2nd time up in Virginia I told them I had my house up for sale and was moving to Pa in a few weeks, so they let me out.

      I got one here in Pa for last December, and I forgot about it, They haven’t come for me yet.

      A couple years ago we had a wild case about a lesbian love triangle murder, complete with corpse burnt in the trunk of a car. They ran through the whole jury list and still didn’t have the alternates filled, so they sent some deputies down to WalMart to grab people and bring them to the courthouse to be interviewed.

    5. Basically, the only reason anyone with a decided worldview would ever get on a jury is because the lawyer who doesn’t like your view has run out of challenges (on that point, if you’re a very “interesting” person, your odds of getting kicked are higher if you’re randomly picked from the 40-so people right out of the gate than as a late alternate) I wouldn’t say it’s exactly easy to get out of jury duty beyond the point of throwing the summons away, but it is definitely so damn hard to actually get in a jury. My first jury trial was completely out-of-sorts,I was the last juror on the panel to be questioned, the court was short on time, and I was only asked one question…from the defense attorney…and the bell rang while I was elaborating. It was about being surprised at the number of charges/counts against the defendant, of course I politely said something along the lines of “knowing anything could be on the table”, as even those who watch a fake trial on TV see how many counts can be brought up from one illegal act. Apparently that’s all the attorney needed to know; the next day they used a challenge to excuse me.

  10. Wow Matt – sounds awful!!

    I’ve been maybe 4 times, but I’ve never even made it out of the waiting room. And this is granted not in NYC, but still in a decently major city.
    I actually find our county’s system to be quite good/effecient (relative to most govt):
    First, You get a number on your summons, and you call in the night before to see if you even need to go in. If you’re number 400 and they only need 340 that day, you’re golden.
    Then the promise is “One trial or one day”, so if you make it out that day, you’re done.
    There was maybe a 30 minute video about the importance of the whole thing, not too painful.
    And honestly I don’t remember any paperwork at all, or if there was, it was very minimal, like signing your form and handing it in.
    You get to wait in a big room (not a courtroom) so you’re free to surf the web or read mags or drink cokes.
    They call people in for various trials, but until they call you, you just hang out.
    I’ve never even been called back for a voir dire. Though I’d like to because I think it would be interesting.
    When they let us out, they just said Youre free to go, and everyone remaining left.
    A couple of time we had to stay til 5, but other times we were out by lunchtime.

    So it doesn’t HAVE to be hellish. 🙂

    1. If you’re number 400 and they only need 340 that day, you’re golden.

      Not necessarily. When I got my summons in September 2008, I was #270. They called in #151-#300.

      I thought here in New York you were exempt for six years, not four. I just got another questionnaire back in March, but haven’t gotten the summons yet. 🙁

    2. I’ve been called twice and went into jury pools twice, but have never been selected for a jury.

      The first time was on the day before Thanksgiving (wonderful). It was for an attempted murder trial. Apparently a man caught somebody in the act of trying to steal his car. The man tried to shoot the thief and missed. (at least that’s as far as I could tell, the jury was filled before they got to me)

      The second time was for a federal lawsuit involving a trucking company strike (the union was suing the trucking company for union-busting). I was excused from that jury because I lost out on a $500,000 business deal due to that strike (couldn’t receive supplies in a sufficiently timely manner).

      In both instances I was done by noon.

      Also, I received a jury summons of my very own in the mail Monday, for the week of June 8th. We’ll see how it goes.

      1. Oh, I forgot. Here in Indiana, a jury summons only exempts you for two years, instead of four.

      2. Not sure how different my local county court is from my state’s district court (got a summons like that for next week, we’ll see), but here is two things that I got from my county experience…

        1. Unless you end up selected, you’re free to get randomly called back at any time for a few more days of torture. For that matter I usually hope to get selected, better a few years of relief than an unexpected call months later.

        2. Courts don’t always call from a set range of numbers. My court, for example, uses a variation of RNG (I’m thinking a bingo ball set-up :D) and whether your badge is a high or low number means nothing.

  11. Most people here are NOT going to end up on a jury. Courtroom attorneys tell stories and they do not wish to have anyone on the jury who questions those stories.
    Make clear that you will consider such stories as merely a starting point for discussion, and you’ll receive the ‘thank you for your time, Mr or Ms X’.

  12. The point of being juror – always assuming they let you serve, which for certain people is impossible if they’re honest about their views – is to counteract the governmental incompetence and corruption described by Welch in his article. If the would-be jurors are getting pushed around and mistreated, imagine the fate of the people coming to the courthouse to answer criminal charges, and who are facing possible imprisonment; or those who are in civil litigation and want to get a shred of justice.

    As I understand it, the Frankish people used to preserve their freedom by summoning the lower orders – farmers and the like – to compulsory meetings to decide public questions. The short-sighted lower orders complained about the burden of this duty, so the government graciously relieved them of the burden, leaving government decisions in the hands of the nobles…and that’s how the Franks (literally “freemen”) became French.

    1. Eddie, I really wouldn’t mind (too much) doing a stint. But I’m serious about considering the stories as a first-draft starting point; skeptics are skeptical of subjects other than god-talking.
      As a result, no way am I ever going to end up on a jury.

  13. Yeah, yeah… but how were you dressed?

    1. Black Reason polo, dark brown slacks, beige mid-tops.

      1. So you’re basically Jake from State Farm?

        1. 1) Black, not red
          2) Untucked, not tucked
          3) Dark brown, not khaki
          4) Unpleated, not pleated

          So a much less Office Space vibe.

          1. Yeah, well you still sound hideous 😉

            1. Oh, you are so bad you’re delicious!!!

      2. Now I’ll have to decide which of my many Atlas Shrugged – theme t-shirts to wear if I’m called.
        THANK YOU, Matt!

  14. You actually gave that long speech to the lawyer?

    “‘ I knew it was all over”

    It was over when the lawyer realized you make decisions on the basis of things other than emotions and expedience.

    I did that whole process myself about … 5 years ago?

    Cadman Plaza DOES smell like pee. Old pee. It actually made me nostalgic for 1980s New York, which also mostly smelled of old pee (and cigarettes).

    I got out of the empaneling process when the guy asked me,

    “Do you feel you might be biased against either of the concerned parties?” and I said,

    “Well, I remain equally skeptical of both…. but none of us would be here if *someone* wasn’t being an extra-special dick”

    I got an uncomfortable laugh for that, and immediate dismissal.

    1. I talked pretty fast, so it wasn’t THAT long. But this is just a snippet of our interaction. My impression was that they were running out the clock to make sure the trial didn’t start yesterday.

      1. That happened to the wife-unit.

        Served as an alternate on a murder trial in DC and then dismissed after 2 weeks of sitting there through the whole thing.

  15. What’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarchist?

    Six months, if you’re paying attention.

    Fer Zeus’ sake, Matt, pay attention. This wasn’t even close to the most dysfunctional and pointlessly wasteful thing government does.

  16. M: Well, I edit a libertarian magazine whose motto is “Free Minds and Free Markets,” and blah blah blah blah blah

    Dude. You absolutely suck at this. I hope you never get questioned by a cop.

    1. Let’s remember that I was not particularly motivated at that point to become an alternate juror in a civil trial that might suck up a week of my time.

      1. But it would make a great experience to write about in the future! Why not stick around, suck it up and roll with the statist punches?

        You’d be writing a far more interesting ditty next week.

        So, basically – you blew it.

        1. Much rather do that on a criminal drug-related case!

          1. Not gonna happen now, Welch. Your cover is blown!

  17. I usually roundfile my notices. I showed up once and after being “struck” or whatever they call it the judge invited me to address the court. I ripped on the whole voir dire process and suggested (without saying “nullification”) that the jury do just that. The judge thanked me, agreed with the main point my specific criticism and said I should have pursued a career in law. Sure beat the shit out of serving or going to jail for contempt.

    1. Did you mention that judicial candidates for office are, in most if not all states, prohibited from making statements or answering questions of the sort that are asked in voir dire?

  18. “Unlike certain nihilists around these parts, I relish each and every “I voted” sticker,”

    That Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker may be tattered, but we haven’t given up hope yet!

  19. “A very anti-libertarian and statist idea. Compulsory service to the state. I treat jury duty like I treat voting?I show up if I feel like it. And I have not felt like showing up for jury duty once in my life.”

    He’s right about this, but he should still always feel like showing up.

    Jury duty is the rare opportunity for an individual to counter legislative abuses.

    1. Not to mention executive and judicial abuses.

      I’ve been called twice, but never gotten as far as voir dire, and would strive to be selected. In preparation for both I reviewed jury nullification literature (so that I could quote it to the rest of the jury if selected) and practiced my “Clintonian” parsing (“Would I be willing to convict someone accused of selling drugs?” “Why yes”, although I would omit the fact that I will choose not to); I would answer honestly, but not necessarily completely.

  20. My sole experience with jury duty was doomed from the start. They herded us into a large auditorium, in the brutalist monstrosity which houses the aggregated municipal agencies dedicated to crushing the human soul in greater metro Indianapolis and Marion County. We were given questionnaires featuring a question I interpreted as asking, “Do you faithfully promise to convict anyone brought before you?”
    I left it blank, and when asked about it by the bullet-headed former cop at the prosecutors’ desk, I said (with no substantive knowledge of jury nullification, at the time), “Well, I can’t say with certainty; there are a lot of stupid laws on the books.” It went rapidly downhill from there.
    I was told I was free to go, and not to bother coming back for any remaining days of the jury pool covered by my summons.

    1. I had a similar experience in NYC. I was released and asked not to return for the remaining days and I was never again called for jury duty (though, that could have been a coincidence. Not sure how much of the “randomly chosen” I believe).

    2. Hmm, I wonder if that would work for me, since I get to go to the same wonderful place in June.

      My excuse of choice is going to be “I have severe heart defects and kidney problems and take a diuretic. I’m going to need a pee break every 45 minutes or so”. It even has the extra added benefit of being true.

      It’ll probably earn me a beatdown from the aforementioned bullet-head.

      1. Oh yes! I take HCTZ for my high blood pressure (it’s a diuretic). I am definitely using this line next time I get called.

        1. Mine is a lot different. I actually have exceptionally low blood pressure (in the doctor’s office, it’s been as low as 75/45). I have a hole in the heart wall between the two atria, plus only one of my valves actually closes properly.

          It’s a particularly nasty deal; to make things even better, it was mis-diagnosed in my teenage years, so I ignored it until I ended up in ICU on a transplant list at 44. I never did get the transplant because I’ve improved enough to move down the list, but I can’t really DO anything physical.

      2. When I was selected for a trial, my biggest concerns were how often I’d feel the need to relieve myself and staying awake. I was successful at both, but the judge fell asleep.

  21. Upon further reflection, I was probably deemed by the prosecutors to have “tainted” every prospective juror in the courtroom.
    I sprang the whole lot of them, I suspect.

    1. Well they shouldn’t have so many stupid laws on the books then (and damn, are there).

  22. Conclusion: Anarchy is looking better by the day.

    SOON.

    We all float down here.

    1. It’s only going to look better because we move further away from times of actual anarchy, and start to forget it. All of us were born without actually experiencing it. If it does come to that, I don’t think people realize how much worse it could possibly be than a world of red tape. Think about the lack of government in Walking Dead, then think of the survivalists telling you reality is so much harder than television, then imagine you have all the knowledge of how much worse it is than that and none of the skills to combat it, then you’ll start to have the mind of Plato again. Anarchy is nature’s rule, and I’d rather have bureaucracy than a whole world become a dark alley with mangy cats fighting over a fishbone.

  23. I’ve served jury duty only twice.

    Once in the 80’s in PG County, MD. I sat, all day, in a stinking, crowded room, with the right half of the room designated as the no smoking section, which worked about as well as you suspect. There was a small color TV that only played soap operas.

    I forgot to bring a book and looked for ways to fake my own death. But, I got 15 bucks for my trouble.

    The 2nd time, about 15 years ago, everyone seated around me, and I mean everyone, was selected for a murder trial. I sat there unselected, like a Bizarro bullseye, thankful for whatever odor or dirty look got me out of that.

  24. I live in a small town with a relatively ‘high’ crime rate. I have the privilege of serving approximately every two years. I sat on a grand jury and one of the cases was a guy who had 5 pot plants over the personal use limit (before it was legal in AK). I was the only one who voted not to forward the charges. I said it was a waste of our time and taxes. Lots of eye rolls and the charges (simple majority needed) were sent forward. Most of those people probably voted for legalization a few years later.

  25. I was called for a big capital murder case – a crackhead shot a pregnant woman in the head. BIG CASE.
    I was interested, but just started a new job and didn’t want to piss off my new boss.
    Got to the second screening and they gave us a thick questioniare on who we knew and what we knew. The last question was an essay one on our opinion of capital punishment. Instead of telling the truth [at the time: kill, kill, kill – since modified], I wrote a page and a half on personal responsibility. The next day, as they were doing their final cut, they came to me and both sides piped up at the same time to dismiss me.
    They recognized an asshole.

    1. “I was interested, but just started a new job and didn’t want to piss off my new boss.”

      I would hope a boss would like someone with enough of a sense of duty to serve their community when called upon to do so.

      Anyway, if you’d served, then every time you got a negative performance evaluation, you caould say, “you’re not retaliating against me for my jury service, are you?”

      /largely kidding

      1. My general policy is to not piss off the boss for a few months, at least. In that case, I quite about a month later since the boss was a rage-oholic and threw stuff.

          1. Quite.

            1. Quit quite quietly, so that you don’t get hit in the back of the head with a paperweight or stapler.

  26. The bad news? I might just have benn transformed into the anti-jury-duty cynic of the opening paragraph.

    Your time (your life) has no value, as far as they are concerned, Shirley.

  27. “M: Well, I co-hosted a show on Fox Business Network for 13 months called “The Independents,” and I’m on MSNBC a lot.

    L: Fox News, huh? You know, (at this both defense counsel start audibly sighing and thinking about objecting) I get the impression that Fox News HATES people like me.”

    Matt, hate to say it, but you just had a Rush Limbaugh moment.

    Way, WAY back in the early part of first Clinton term I’d occasionally listen to Limbaugh. He told a similar story where one of his staff was called for jury duty, Limbaugh instructing her to mention she worked for him and she’d never serve on any jury. Sure enough, when the lawyer got to her sheet on his clipboard, he immediately grimaced and said, “I’m not even going to talk to you.” She was summarily dismissed.

    1. Lawyers HATE this one Fox News trick!

      1. +1 can’t guess what happened next!

  28. All but one of the jury summonses I received came after I’d moved out of the jurisdiction. Those I round-filed. For the one exception, I showed up and then got excused when I went Godwin on the judge. I refused to swear that I would follow the law as the judge explained it, got called to the bench for a conference with the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney, and tried to explain that I believed in the legitimacy of jury nullification. I didn’t use that term, but in hindsight I should have. What I did do was to make a comparison to “just following orders” – saying that I had to refuse on principle to swear any oath that could put me in the position of doing so.

    1. The other useful analogy in that case (via Walter Williams) is to bring up the hypothetical of being a juror called to sit on the trial of an escaped slave being charged under the Fugitive Slave Act and assert you would have had a moral duty to acquit regardless of what the law says on the matter.

  29. Television career. Please.

    1. Hypothetical: if Kennedy got called for jury duty, would she keep interrupting the lawyers and the judge?

      1. Isn’t she Canadian?

        1. No, she’s from Lake Oswego or something.

    2. He didn’t specify how long, cupcake.

  30. I keep getting excused because I answer no to the “Will you obey the judge’s instructions on the law even if it conflict with your personal beliefs?” question on the juror form.

    1. Ah, that’s the magic password. Thanks, man.

      I usually just get a doctor’s note.

  31. I got a summons in the navy, floating around the Pacific. Wrote back, said if you can get me some basket leave, I’m all over it. Never heard back, drat 🙂

  32. I used to work at a law firm. The lawyers used to joke that the fate of the defendant is in the hands of 12 people who are too stupid to get out of jury duty.

    1. This may be well out of date, or inaccurate to begin with, but the quote floating around the law office I worked in a decade ago was that a Harris County juror has an average of a 7th-grade education.

  33. I’ve never served on a jury. Oddly enough, I’d like to, just for the experience.

    I’ve been summoned a couple times. I never even got to the disqualification interviews: I just sat in the holding room while others were selected for grilling, and was told around noonish that the rest of us were done for the day and could go home. Didn’t have to stick around for any “I served” documentation either, that’s all handled automatically in our jurisdiction. We had airport-style security too, but it was fairly quick and painless, with much shorter lines.

    I guess our local Stalinists here in Portland are a bit more courteous and efficient than yours.

  34. Jury duty for me consisted of this conversation with the clerk:

    “Are you in school?”
    “Yes ma’am, at NC State.”
    “Oh, I’m a Carolina fan. You have classes today?”
    “Yes ma’am.”

    “You’re excused from duty. Have a nice day.”
    “Thank you ma’am.”

    I held on to that piece of paper.

  35. Typo, Matt: I might just have benn transformed into the anti-jury-duty cynic of the opening paragraph.

    1. Thanks!

  36. Who is going to lead the revolution, Matt, if not you? You should have been an alternate juror. You should have done everything you could to get that spot.

    We need to you lead, Matt! Lead and write about it.

  37. Old Man With Candy|5.13.15 @ 2:13PM|#

    “I invoke my Fifth Amendment right to not speak to government officials.”
    You might want to reread that amendment. It doesn’t say that.

    It’s implied: “… nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”

    Government trials are conducted by government officials. Anything you say to any government official on the job can be later used against you if criminal charges are brought based on what you said, in particular when there is a court transcript of whatever you say. Therefore, compelling you to speak to government officials against your will violates the Fifth.

  38. Matt, you were lucky.

    While I didn’t have the experience with a fire, the selection process took six days, with the last day taking until past 6:00 PM. I did not even get into the courtroom for the first three days. Just waited in the hallway like a good soldier. Why did they need to call nearly 400 jurors to get twelve plus the alternates? I found out why after I got in the courtroom…. three defendants each with their own lawyer (sigh)

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  41. I had a similar one-day jury duty experience that put me off going to law school, to my mother’s eternal disappointment. Everything was so grim and awful. The lawyers were slimeballs. Fellow jurors were mute morons or psychopaths. I don’t know what a better system is for a democracy, but I sure became a skeptic of the jury system after that. One of the worst days of my life until I was older and had to deal with more encompassing encounters with the judicial system. All in all it’s a horrible, depressing part of life, and I don’t know why judges and lawyers aren’t more into lobbying to make it at least somewhat more pleasant.

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  43. Minor quibble; calling that ostentatiously ugly Brutalist structure “Stalinist” is unfair to Stalin, as amazing as that may be. He was a monster, and his style of building was ugly, but not THAT ugly. Stalinist is very much in the line of WPA mural Socialit Realism; grand iconic buildings that look great from a distance when new (and clean), if the light is cooperating. From an unplanned angle, or in overcast, or when time had had an opportunity to etch the surfaces with grime, and they start to look as awkward as they are to live with.

  44. The one time I got called for jury duty, the nearby gas main broke, causing the court house to be evacuated. This all happened before jury selection even started. I thank my lucky stars for that bit of fortune.

  45. I’d like to be on a jury. I don’t know how California’s system works, I’ve been called exactly once in 10 years. My wife in the same period has served on two juries and now has been called in for an unspecified Federal Trial starting in June that is expected to last 7 weeks.

  46. Look, I get everybody hates jury duty, but speaking as a criminal defense attorney, you are the people we need on juries. The statist cousin of a cop isn’t going to acquit my guy on jury nullification grounds, nor is he going to hold the prosecution to the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. So, please, consider putting up with the shit to help the wrongfully accused and those that commit victimless crimes.

    And if you do have to be struck, make sure you say it’s because you are less likely to believe the word of a cop than of a private citizen (this is almost universally asked in criminal trials). You’ll make the prosecution waste a challenge instead of the defense. Please.

  47. Matt- Thanks for this very entertaining and informative piece. I have served on a jury twice, for the same county in cases separated by a decade or so, which allowed me to compare and contrast the security arrangements of today with those of “the good old days.” My more recent case involved metal detectors, removal of belts and shoes, scrutiny of the contents of my pockets, and other inconveniences and invasions of privacy, at least twice a day, though the lines were not generally as horrendous as those you faced. My county government building is arguably more attractive than the one in Brooklyn, but is still an imposing, spartan edifice constructed largely of glass and unpainted concrete. (continued in reply post, below)

    1. (continued from above) The more recent case was in civil court, and I was at first disappointed as you were. But I got to learn a lot about civil law, and the case itself turned out to be fascinating, turning on one of the most perverse questions I have ever encountered: If a woman has a right to an abortion, and, for some reason her OBGYN providers do not alert her to the fetus’ birth defects before the birth, are they negligent and liable for damages because the woman was effectively prevented from exercising her abortion rights? That is to say, are the woman and baby injured in the legal sense because the baby lived, and if so, who is responsible? We on the jury were all very lucky that the deliberation process was structured so that we considered the question of negligence first, and the plaintiff was unable to show negligence to our satisfaction. To decide on the question of “injury” based on the live birth of a baby would have been surrealistic. I hope you do get on a jury one of these days. The process of selection is torture (I even got a parking ticket for my troubles on the first day), but both times I have served, I have been impressed with the quality and conscientiousness of my fellow citizens. Juries have a great power to do right, and your point of view is needed in the jury box.

    2. Matt usually delivers.

  48. I don’t do jury duty. I let em know I don’t trust them to present all the pertinent evidence so can’t in good conscience find anyone guilty regardless of what’s presented. After that they don’t want me.

  49. So, basically it’s a: “yes, Virginia. There really is a purgatory. I have been there and it ain’t fun.”

  50. I would love to be on a jury but that’s probably never going to happen. I’m in a rural county and know the prosecutor (who tried to ban people from handing out Constitutions and packets on jury nullification to potential jurors outside the courthouse). When I was looking into law school and in the courthouse for a class, she told me I would be a good prosecutor. Not known for my tact, I told her I cared about the Constitution too much to be a prosecutor in modern America. The defense attorney standing near us laughed at that and told me I should be a defense attorney. Instead, I got my Master’s in Economics. Dealing with our legal system every day would piss me off.

  51. Almost? Jury duty DID turn me into an anarchist. Reason became too statist for me after that.

  52. I feel your pain. But if I were wrongly accused or my rights had been violated and was in front of a jury, I’d want someone like you on the panel. So lets just grin and bear it because just to be there is a service to our fellow citizens not compulsory service to the government.

  53. Bloggers so insightful, admire.And this view exactly the same with me.

  54. You have some foreign sounding name.

    On the Jury summons, there’s a question that essentially asks “Can you speak English”

    You fill in the “no” part.

    My parents never had to report to jury duty.

  55. Tips for becoming a stealth juror: If you are called up to perform jury duty in a marijuana case, you will be asked by the prosecutor if you would convict someone for a marijuana offense. Say “Maybe if the prosecutor can make a good case”. During jury deliberations, vote not guilty. Do not give a personal reason for voting not guilty; just say that you don’t think that the prosecution proved its case. Your vote will result in a hung jury (mistrial) which may force the prosecutor to offer the defendant a better plea deal or drop the charges altogether. If enough marijuana cases end in hung juries, prosecutors will not bother to try these cases. This strategy helped end alcohol prohibition.

  56. As a practicing business litigator in LA, I can tell you most of my brethren and I avoid juries like the plague. They take too much time, add to the complexity, and make the results even more unpredictable than using a judge. Most business cases worth anything now go to … wait for it … private arbitration! Voluntary, mutually-agreed upon, private dispute resolution. Murray Rothbard must be looking down at us with a big ole smile on his face.

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  58. I was with you until you commented on the McDonald’s coffee cup spill (Leibeck v. McDonald’s). Most people who criticize that case (being most people) don’t have any idea what the details of the case were, how and why the jury awarded the punitive damages that they did, that the judge reduced the award significantly, and how the media spun a false narrative of the case. I work in product liability as a forensics expert and I can tell you that I’ve seen some pretty serious BS cases. Leibeck v. McDonald’s was not one of them.

  59. I’ve been called for jury duty twice. I was selected both times.

    In the first case (a battery case) the prosecutor was clearly trying on her training wheels with an experienced prosecutor backing her up. So the first day was shot with jury selection and the second day (we had to be there at 8:00 for a trial that didn’t start until after lunch) ran well past dinner time. Like from 1:00pm till past 9:00 at night. The sidebars were endless – probably a dozen or more. And the case came down to a woman lying to two men and the men getting into an altercation while trying to each defend her from the other. The one character in the whole fiasco who wasn’t present? The woman. Sunning herself on a beach a hundred miles away, no doubt.

    The altercation itself was purely technical. The first guy (semi-drunk guy) knocked the glasses off the second guy when he thought the second guy was taking a swing at him. The glasses fell off. Didn’t even break the glasses. No other injury was reported. Like I said, a nothing case for a new prosecutor. Technically any unconsented-to touching is battery, but this was a case that took that technicality to the very edge of absurdity… and beyond.

    The high point of the trial was AFTER we arrived at the “NOT GUILTY” verdict. Because it was so late, we’d ordered dinner – and were retired to consider the case while eating. (cont)

  60. As foreman, I asked as soon as the door closed if anyone had any objection to taking an open vote at that point. No one did, so we voted unanimously NOT GUILTY. Then I asked the rest of the jury, “Okay, we’re decided. Now, do we call the bailiff and have him tell them? Or do we eat dinner first and let them wait?” Again the vote was unanimous. There was one other vote taken (also unanimous) before we chowed down.

    About 45 minutes later we filed into the courtroom and delivered our verdict. The judge then said we were free to ask any questions about the process or make comments about the procedure. I stood and faced the prosecutor and said, “We took a vote and are unanimous in saying that were are both embarrassed and angered that you had the gall to bring this case in this court.”

    The new prosecutrix’s lips flapped, but nothing came out at first – then she started with, “But we had to…” to which I replied, “That’s not true.” She began to protest again, but her more experienced second chair told her to sit down and be quiet. I think the judge was laughing up his sleeve. I’m reasonably sure it was her first case, also believe she thought she’d won it, and that she will never forget being handed her head by the jury. (cont)

  61. The second case was less eventful. It was a domestic battery case. Again, a day was wasted on jury selection, and on the day of the trial, I and my fellow jurors filed into one room after another until we wound up in the jury room. After a while were were called into court where everyone apologized and sent us home. Turns out that the prosecutor had not subpoenaed the chief witness (the “victim”) and she decided not to show up – so no case. Law 101 legal blunder by the prosecutor.

    Now one might think they’d have figured that out before we all drove in and called us to tell us not to come… but that’s the criminal “just us” system – more criminal than just. There is NO consideration for the jurors. We had the same crappy video about how lucky we were to be jurors and were told the same story about “modernization”. I was smart enough to show up an hour late the second time – because I knew about all the bullshit. But jurors just get treated like little pieces of crap to be shuffled from one place to another without consideration until a couple obsequious, fawning lawyers try to convince you they are your “friends” so you will side with whichever side they are representing. The sincerity is no deeper than the soles of their wing-tip shoes, and it’s clear from the beginning that they are out to manipulate you – not convince you through reason.

    The system sucks.

  62. The “McDonald’s coffee case” is nothing like most people think. It was McDonald’s policy to serve coffee at 180 ?F (home coffee is usually around 135). She had third degree burns on 6% of her body including her labia. She needed multiple skin grafts and almost died. McDonald’s did this because the hotter you brew the coffee, the less grounds you have to use, and over the course of 35,000 restaurants saving a penny per cup adds up. Several hundred other people had been injured in this way, which McDonald’s knew, but they did not change their policies. It really is a horrible story. And the case worked! Not only was Ms. Liebeck compensated, McDonald’s lowered the temp of their coffee, so that they wouldn’t face these kinds of damages costs in the future. Isn’t that a perfect libertarian ideal of how civil courts should function? As a check on irresponsible behavior by large corporations?

    You can google to find the true story. HBO had a documentary about it called “Hot Coffee” that was pretty good. Check out the photos of her injuries if you want to be really sickened.

    Overall a good article, but I hate it when people don’t know the facts of this case, and use it as an example of everything wrong with our court system, when it is actually (one of the few) cases where the system worked correctly.

    1. And how many people do you know that regularly hold their hot coffee in the car with their thighs?

    2. I’m not quite confident that this suit worked as well as you say.

      For one thing, it is my understanding (admittedly, by reading Wikipedia) that only the local McDonald’s changed their temperature; McDonald’s, as a general policy, still requires the hotter temperature.

      For another thing, while a lot of places serve coffee at a lower temperature, a lot of places also serve it at a hotter temperature.

      For another thing, apparently a lot of these cases are dismissed as “trivial” anyway, both before and after this case.

      Is this case really a good example of tort problems run amok? Perhaps not, but I’m not entirely convinced. In following three or four links about the issue, I recall someone pointing out that corporations have spent millions for tort reform. Oh, the bias! But I can’t help but wonder what the agenda of those who are trying to convince us that this case a lot less trivial than originally made out to be…

      (Having said that, the fact that 3rd-degree burns does alter the seriousness of this particular case, to my understanding…)

  63. I know what have finally pushed you over in to FULL ANARCHY – an appointment at the DMV the following day.

    Jury duty summons + DMV appointment = anarchist.

  64. What, your honor? This isn’t the line to Animal Planet? But that guy over there (points to security guard) said ‘hey, you assholes, welcome to the dog and pony show . . . ‘

  65. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
    http://www.work-cash.com

    1. If I kill you for posting spam you worthless, spam-spewing, dirtbag whore, will I have a jury trial?

  66. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, aka Matt Welch.

  67. 1. Your vote on a jury really counts.
    2. For a writer, no experience is wasted.
    3. If you were on trial, would you want you on the jury?

    Someone with principles to vote in accordance with our natural rights is really helpful in a jury. It only takes one. My dad once convinced 11 jurors to change their minds.

    I’ve been “thanked and excused” a few times (they can tell I’m a libertarian, apparently), but I’ve decided that I ought to try harder to save my common sense for the jury room and hide it from the judge. After all, judges hide relevant facts from the jury all the time (mandatory minimums and strikes). One jury I was not on was for attempted murder and “being a felon in possession of a handgun,” which sounded like 3 strikes to me (double jeopardy an ex post facto), but they did not say that it was 3 strikes.

    At any rate, this might not have been the right case for you, but consider serving next time on behalf of the People, and looking out for our right to due process. Juries have the power to draw the line.

  68. Well, perhaps we’d be better off with no law, not even a jury made one, BUT it seems to me that most of your problem stems from living in NY, which I can’t see ANY true libertarian voluntarily doing.

  69. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

  70. Nathaniel . although Stephanie `s rep0rt is super… I just bought a top of the range Mercedes sincee geting a check for $4416 this last four weeks and would you believe, ten/k last-month . no-doubt about it, this really is the best-job I’ve ever done . I actually started seven months/ago and almost straight away started making a nice over $79.. p/h….. ?????? http://www.Jobs-Cash.com

  71. I’ve been called for “jury duty”, many times, not sure how so many people “get out of it”. lol I have to admit, I’ve only had one “good” experience with it. And that had to do with having lunch with a prospective juror who looked like a movie star..

    If you have a reasonably open mind, you’ll never be the same after being abused by the “jury selection” system. You’re treated almost as if you’re a potential criminal and you’re in the “prospective juror pool “.(at least in the state and county I live in) That being said, the opportunity to see the “legal system” in action is almost worth the bother..

    I sat on a case that could have ended in serious prison time for the two young black males. It was in essence a “fraud” case, but the prosecutor painted the two men as “master manipulators” and more, for attempting to defraud dozens of people of their money.. In the end, after nearly a week of testimony.. The judge called both attorneys to chambers and the case was settled… Apparently the judge considered the two guilty of being stupid rather than malevolent… He sentenced them to time served, and ordered restitution… Not a bad deal overall… Save the disruption of my life, and seeing firsthand, how “unjust” the Justice system is.

    Not always a pleasant experience, but it taught me a great deal..

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