Hey, That Jury Summons is for . . . Me

I got a little gift from St. Louis County, Missouri in the mail on Christmas Eve.
I could tell from the envelope that it was a jury summons, but I was surprised to see it was addressed to me.
A quick search on the Internet disabused me of my outdated notion that lawyers were exempt from jury service in Missouri. The law changed in 2004. Glad I wasn’t tested on my knowledge of that.
Missouri has a great website with information for potential jurors, which, among other things, helps you get rid of that poor attitude that you might otherwise have when getting a jury summons and learning about your $10 a day compensation:

Few activities in our civic life provide such a direct contact with our democracy as does jury service. Besides voting, nothing is so active and participatory in nature. In fact, Thomas Jefferson believed that serving on a jury is more important than voting. He said, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

That said, my expectation was that I’d spend a couple of days waiting around, read a few books, and head home with an extra $20. After all, I thought, what lawyer would actually choose another lawyer for a jury?
I decided to ask around, locally and on Twitter, to see if trial lawyers would pick a lawyer for a jury and, realistically, what were my chances of being selected for a jury?
To my surprise (and you’ve probably noticed that everything about this experience so far has been a surprise to me – I’m definitely a transactional lawyer), not only did lawyers indicate that they would select other lawyers, but that they might well select me,
So, now I’m thinking that this might turn into something more than a chance to catch up on my reading.
But, faithful reader, I’d like to learn more about this and get more input from you on my questions about lawyers serving on juries, especially if you have been a lawyer who served on a jury or a lawyer who has selected lawyers to serve on juries.
I have three questions that I’d love to get your answers to, either as a comment to this post, an email to me at denniskennedyblog @ gmail.com, or a response to me on Twitter at @denniskennedy.

1. Would you select another lawyer for a jury on a case you were trying? In what circumstances?
2. In what type of case would you or wouldn’t select a lawyer like me for your jury?
3. What is your best practical advice for a lawyer who might be a jury candidate?

If you send me an email, let know whether you want to share your comments, with or without attribution. I’ll probably end up writing an article on this topic.
You can find some of the earlier responses I’ve received on Twitter by searching for “@denniskennedy” at http://search.twitter.com.
Thanks for your help.
[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (http://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]
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Comments

  1. says

    We did a jury trial about a year ago that involved complex agency issues. We were delighted to seat the poor lawyer that was summoned. The biggest part of our case involved establishing that our client was not the agent of the true bad actor. However, under the facts of our case, this wasn’t a slam dunk. As a result, someone with knowledge of agency rules was something we liked.
    In the end, the lawyer wasn’t as helpful as we hoped. In discussing the matter after the case concluded, he thought he should take a backseat role because he didn’t want to mess up the lay-person jury process. He kept the jury from hurting us badly, but not as much as he could.
    Thus, my advice for a lawyer is to not ignore the judge’s instructions: you can bring your life experience to the jury room. Please do.

  2. M. Sean Fosmire says

    I sat on a jury in a two-day criminal trial in Detroit, about three years out of law school. Since I am a civil defense lawyer, I suspect that the prosecutor was agreeable on the belief that I would be naturally inclined to the prosecution. But we acquitted the defendant of the charge of illegal possession of a handgun. We thought he was probably guilty but that the prosecutor had not proven it beyond a reasonable doubt. I have no doubt now that my understanding (such as it was) of the difference was the basis for the acquittal.
    My conclusion: I do not want lawyers on my juries.