Many people envision themselves being on a jury. In the heyday of Perry Mason, the idea was probably a pleasant one – the privilege of serving justice.
You might wonder how you would “fit” if you were summoned as a prospective juror. How does a person wind up making the cut to be empaneled as a jury member? What makes a good juror, and how does an attorney manage to recognize this? What kinds of rules are followed in finding a good juror? Attorneys use many questions during jury selection to screen out bias. An attorney may also want to screen out the obviously willful, headstrong person – no attorney wants a jury steamrolled by one ego. But it is not as simple as it may sound.
Experienced personal injury lawyer Moe Levine likens the good-juror question to that of “what makes a good lawyer?” A lawyer becomes the kind of lawyer she is by living as she does, Levine observes, becoming someone like herself. Meaning that ultimately, there are no rules.
With that said, a juror needs the ability to learn afresh about things they may or may not know, like how a knee works. This takes humility. It takes patience. It does not take a lot of schooling – sometimes, a highly educated person will find more reasons, not fewer, to be close-minded. Imagine a think-tank member.
However, one type of knowledge – not really stated in any books – is very important for whoever gets seated on a jury. This is a knowledge about being human. Levine puts it well. When a couple of male jurors “got it” about how much his client’s loss had affected her ability to enjoy life, he observed, “You’re not teaching them. You’re reminding them.”
Some people are easily reminded of basic human knowledge – how humans must live gripped by feelings, how we have the capacity to suffer, and how joy can be taken from us. Levine calls this reminiscence about the nature of life a juror’s becoming inspired.
Our Oregon personal injury attorneys work hard to inspire jurors with the fact that a courtroom stands for something – it is where the conscience of the community has an opportunity to go to work. Human capacity to enjoy life is the most valuable thing we all get to enjoy. Taking this from another person, therefore, is the gravest injury you can do, “the most serious of all damages,” as Levine says. His client was a 62-year-old woman who labored all day on a farm, and a few nights a week, enjoys bowling. That was her life – survival plus the enjoyment of bowling. Levine said,
“The bowling was the pleasure that compensated for the pain and anguish of survival. They have removed from her the pleasure, and they have left her with survival, and it isn’t worth it.”
After an attorney comes to believe her case, she wants only a juror who will follow the law, because correct application of the law will favor her client.
Levine says that as a juror, you are the voice of conscience for the community. It really is like Perry Mason, after all. As a juror, you speak for the community. The community exists so that its members need not fear injustice being done to them, willy-nilly, by bad actors. As a juror, you speak for this human value, justice – the product of a legal system that says, whoever is proven to have harmed another can be made to compensate for that harm.
If you have questions about this topic or any other law-related topic, please contact our Portland, Corvallis, or Albany Attorneys. We first seek to provide information and answering questions is always free at our law firm and is our main priority.