As a very young lawyer, I was on trial before a very seasoned trial judge. The judge was late in his career and nearing retirement. He ran his courtroom with military precision and took no guff from anyone. You could tell, however, that he loved his job.
After some preliminary lawyer stuff, the jury was marched into the courtroom for jury selection. The sheriff ordered us all to stand, out of respect, for the potential jurors. The grey-haired judge then gave a little speech. He said that our Country is unique from every other country in the world because it allows ordinary citizens to decide cases. He said citizen juries were so important to our Founding Fathers, they put it in the Constitution so that the right of having citizens listen to cases would not be taken away. That system has served this Country ever since.
The judge then said something I had never considered. He said our Country asks us for our service in only two situations: war and jury duty. Both require you to take an oath. Both require your time. Both require work. And, both can involve life and death. He asked that jury to take the work of jury service as seriously as we do service in times of war.
Recently, I was called for jury duty. Like most people, I did not like the idea of having to spend a day at jury duty. I did not have time for it. I had other things to do, more important things to do. Besides, who would put a trial lawyer on their jury?
Dutifully, I arrived at the courthouse on the given day at the time. I walked the long hallways to the jury room. When I arrived, I found hundreds of people. Some were old, some young, some moms, some dads, some single people. People from about every walk of life and in every color and shape. It was a wide cross-section of Chicagoland.
We began the day by watching a short video about our jury service. It explained the process of a jury trial in civil and criminal cases. It explained who the parties were and their roles in the courtroom. The video explained who was in charge and who could say what. Other than being somewhat old, the video explained the process well.
As I listened to that video, I was reminded of my work. As a trial lawyer, I have the privilege of spending a fair amount of time in front of juries. I am constantly amazed at how 12 people work so hard. They always pay attention. They always look at the evidence very carefully. They always take their job very seriously. In nearly every case, they arrive at the right decision. All that work for about $17 a day.
The words of that old judge ring in my ear nearly every time I stand front of a new jury for the first time. I feel honored that these people have taken their duty to their Country seriously. I feel honored to be a part of a process that allows ordinary people to do these extraordinary things. I enjoy helping my clients navigate through the process. I love it when those juries give my clients the justice they deserve, the justice that was delayed for years.
Back in the jury room, we were getting packed up for lunch when jury panel 3 was called. That was me. Along with about 30 other people, we walked down to the courtroom. I sat in the seats and listened as the judge’s clerk called out names for people to be questioned. I was not picked to serve on the jury and, I must admit, I was a little disappointed. I wanted to hear the evidence and make a decision with 11 other people. Still, I know that just by being there, I served my Country in a small way. Along with hundreds of others that day, I did my duty.
If you have any questions about jury service, call us at Dixon Law Office, we are here to help.