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Friday, July 16, 2004

"Designer" Juries

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A little trial went on in the media a while back, you may remember it, OJ's? That Chris Dardin was a sharp dresser but what's with Marsha Clark's hair? I think it's a problem when the parties (attorneys, witnesses, plaintiffs, etc.  --Not the judge. The judge is always in black) in a court proceeding are more concerned about what to wear than what to say.

I don't like this state of affairs at all. I am not a sharp dresser. In fact, I'm a slob. I spent the entire first year of law school looking like a bag lady. What's more, I am genetically incapable of spending a bunch of money on clothes ~~ or shoes ~~ or a hair cut. How am I going to fair as a litigator? Not so well. That jury will take one look at me and determine that I can not possibly know what I'm talking about. "Look at her shoes!" (I have a pair of loafers I wear to court that my biggest fan thinks make me a lesbian, not look like a lesbian but actually mean I am a lesbian)

So, I don't like this designer jury idea any more than I like designer clothes. In my perfect world, the mere fact that I dislike it magically changes it. POOF! No more jury engineering, Diva does not like it. However, and sadly, I live in reality most of the time. Reality is what it is. Juries are what they are. Just every day folks, susceptible to the same stuff as the rest of us. They form first impressions and come with all sorts of pre-conceived notions. There is not a darn thing we can do about it. 

I am not really sure how the whole designer jury thing works anyway.  I mean, I've read Grisham's Runaway Jury, but that's the extent of my knowledge about how this stuff REALLY is.  I gather that  it's a step beyond acknowledging the reality that people (read - Jurors) like to look at other people they find attractive. Or prefer nice clothes. Or good hair. With the designer jury we try to package facts and testimony in very specific terms to appeal to individual jurors. That really seems to totally disregard the point of the jury, don't you think? They are supposed to be OBJECTIVE finders of fact. But if we make everything as SUBJECTIVELY appealing as we can, we've completely subverted the process. But what are you gonna do? Reality is reality.

Well, If you can't beat 'em, I say join 'em!  Lets run with reality. How about national trials, American Idol style? Trials as reality TV. We'll just let all the viewers be jurors, they can phone in their verdicts. That way the parties can stick to a more general idea of what's attractive or popular, instead of getting so personally manipulative of individual jurors. Last Lawyer Standing!  We'll vote the lawyers off as soon as they get bad hair cuts. Perhaps the attorneys can sing during closing arguments? Make costume changes during recesses. We'll see how good (or bad) the plaintiff looks in a swim suit.  How far should we let this go?

My torts prof called juries "12 folks, good and true". There's nothing wrong with that. I think juries get it right most of the time. Even though few of us grew up longing to be jurors, most of us understand the importance of the function. Most of us have respect for the process, for the court and for the job. So, even if lawyers make their best subjective play for the sympathy of a jury, there is no guarantee that the jury will fall for it.  
As for me, I am still in trouble either way.  My basic slobness is going to be a stumbling block, difficult to overcome.  But I have a plan to deal with this.  I've decided to just to be a judge since I look GREAT in black.


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