Thursday, June 21, 2012

Jury Duty!

I was summoned for jury duty this week.  I was among the prospective jurors called to sit in the jury box for selection, but was “excused” by the lawyer for the plaintiff during the peremptory challenge process.  I’ll give you my theory about why I was bounced at the end of this post.

The matter at hand is a bizarre civil case.  A doctor who has been found guilty of malpractice is suing a lawyer (who represented him in the malpractice suit) for malpractice.  I think I got that right even though it does sound redundant.  Seems that because he lost the original case the doctor was reprimanded by the Medical Board and thinks his reputation and income are damaged.  He’s asking for financial compensation for what he claims is the wrong done to him.

I haven’t heard the evidence so I don’t have an opinion about who is right.  I do have an opinion about whether this kind of lawsuit should be the subject of a jury trial.  Why should we taxpayers have our resources squandered on what is a pissing match between two parties who by their own admission are wealthy?

If they can’t settle their differences and need an outside adjudicator, let them hire a mediator or arbitrator or judge who can render a binding decision.  To require a hundred private citizens to spend several days sitting in a courtroom while a jury is chosen, tie up a Superior Court judge, staff and facilities for weeks, and incur all the ancillary costs associated with a trial that is essentially a private dispute is an outrageous and unnecessary waste of public time and money.

About my being bounced from the jury pool:  During questioning of prospective jurors the judge asked a man who said he was a writer whether he’d written about legal matters.  As readers of this blog know, two years ago I wrote an extensive report on a murder trial on which I was the foreperson of the jury.  It was a difficult, wrenching and in the end unsatisfying experience – and I said so. 

Before I was called to the jury box this time it hadn’t occurred to me to talk about writing the earlier blog.  But after the judge questioned the other juror I thought it might be relevant and brought it up when I was being questioned.  Lawyers for both the plaintiff and defendant asked for more details.  I told them the story I wrote was widely read on the Internet by the lawyers, witnesses, families and friends of those involved in the case, and many others.  One lawyer asked if I used names.  “Yes,” I responded.

Going in I hadn’t intended to use my previous experience as a reason not to sit on this jury.  But after the questions I was asked I thought there was a good chance one or both of the lawyers would want me off the jury.  At his first opportunity, the lawyer for the doctor “Thanked and excused Mr. Miller.” 

Why?  My theory is that win or lose there was no way he or his client wanted to run the risk that this case would find its way into the Internet universe.  They must have feared that the doctor’s reputation would be further damaged.  Had I been on the jury, would I have written about it?  I have no idea.  Would I have gone out of my way to disparage the doctor?  No.  Even so, if I were the doctor’s lawyer would I have wanted me on the jury?  Not a chance!


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3:58 AM  

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