By Hon. (Ret.) Ken E. Adair
Jurors Meet Their Civic Duty Even When They’re Let Go
Video Transcribed: Almost everything I talk about in these videos, I learned from other people. I learned from watching other lawyers try cases, from sitting next to lawyers trying cases, from trying cases, seeing what opposing counsel does, and the like. But it’s worth it to go watch jury trials.
When I was on the bench and I was on vacation if I found out a friend was trying a jury trial and I was anywhere near I’d go watch some of the jury trials. As a judge, you’re stuck in one courtroom for the entire time. The one judge that was on the bench 48 years, he’d been in one courtroom for 48 years. And I’d been in one courtroom for nine years, and I would never pass up an opportunity to go watch a lawyer try a case.
And one thing that I learned from one of my dear friends and mentors is that jurors are often afraid of being rejected, and they become a little anxious. Not all of them. Some of them will become anxious about whether or not they’re going to get picked or not picked. They made plans to be there, they were ordered to be there, they respected the process. All of the people that we’re fighting to get out of jury duty, trying to get out of jury duty, have either succeeded or failed by this time.
So you have a bunch of people that are there because they believe it’s their civic duty to be there. And the ones that don’t believe it’s their civic duty, I can assure you by the end of the process, they will know it was their civic duty. I’ve had many jurors tell me after jury trials, “I will never ever complain about a jury summons again because I see how important this process is.”
But what you tell them is you say, “Hey, being selected or not selected on a jury is nothing personal. It’s like going to a shoe store and shopping for shoes and you find a pair of shoes you like, or maybe another pair of shoes you like or maybe three, and yet they don’t have your size. It doesn’t fit.
And it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with the shoes. It’s just not the right fit. It’s not an insult. It’s not a criticism. Sometimes people just don’t fit with certain kind of trials.” And that’ll alleviate some of their anxiety about being rejected. It’ll also cause them to not be afraid of being rejected. They’ll open up more and become more conversational.
I can’t remember the last time I had a bunch of jurors just blankly staring at me. They used to. When I first started out, you just couldn’t wait to get through voir dire. I love voir dire now. But put their minds at ease and make them open up, and make them feel like you care what they have to say and that they don’t have to risk being rejected in the end.
But in the end, ultimately, maybe the case won’t fit and they won’t take it personally. I hope this has been helpful to somebody. I appreciate you watching. I look forward to talking to you some more, and thank you very much.