Jury Duty

Roger Clemens

Coffee is a critical tool of the American justice system.

Daniel C. Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, commenting on the need for jurors to have access to caffeine during trials. This topic arose after recent happenings in the Roger Clemens trial.

(What happened during Roger Clemens’s trial that would elicit such a response? Find out, after the jump.)

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Last fall, we shared the evidence exam of Harvard Law School professor Charles Nesson. His fall exam didn’t seem to require a lot of evidence knowledge.

This semester, Professor Nesson is teaching an “American Jury” class. We received a copy of the spring take-home exam.

How do you ace a class at Harvard? You better play a lot of attention to cases your professor is currently involved in, and you better not fall asleep during the screening of 12 Angry Men….

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* Paul Clement is a beast, is basically what it comes down to. [The Daily Beast]

* This is probably the grossest, most pornographic employment discrimination/sexual harassment/defamation lawsuit I’ve seen. Maybe fans of 50 Shades of Grey (affiliate link) might find it compelling. The writing in the lawsuit is probably better… [Courthouse News]

* Predictive coding is good. Now it’s bad. Now it’s good. Make up your mind! [Law Technology News]

* A touching obituary about a first-year Reed Smith associate who recently took his own life. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

* Elie was on Fox News late last night (video embed after the jump). He brought the funny. [Red Eye]

* If you ever get in trouble for tweeting or blogging about jury duty, Davis Oscar Markus is the guy to call. [Miami Herald]

* LexisNexis recently unveiled its new, ginormous legal e-book library. It’s just like a normal law library, except you don’t have to ask the pesky law librarian for help. [LexisNexis]

(Embedded Elie, after the jump.)

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Usually when we hear about courtroom drama stemming from social media, it’s caused by someone, you know, actually involved in the case.

Not today! This week, a judge declared a mistrial in a Kansas murder case after a pesky reporter shot and published a cellphone pic from trial. What kind of scandalous photos was the intrepid journalist taking?

The kind that almost certainly doesn’t warrant a mistrial….

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What's the matter with you? Don't you get it?

After writing about enough jurors who get in trouble for posting about their cases online, one begins to feel like Tom Smykowski in Office Space, desperately and hopelessly trying to justify his job to the Bobs. It seems so simple, but no one seems to get it.

You can’t talk about the case on Facebook! Can’t you understand it? What is the hell is wrong with you people?!

This week, we have two more cases of idiot jurors in California and Colorado who simply could not resist going to Facebook to say, ironically, the same thing about the cases they were hearing.

What did they have to say? What kind of titillating trials were they supposed to decide while they were iPhoning instead? And more importantly, how did the attorneys in the cases respond?

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Susan Cole isn't crazy, but her hair kind of is.

Almost everyone likes to fantasize and talk big game to their friends about outlandish strategies to get out of jury duty. But when it comes down to it, most normal people don’t have the balls to show up in court and act full-out crazy to avoid being seated.

For the courageous unpatriotic few who do play the nutso card, the most significant consequence would probably be a good cocktail party story. Nobody ever actually gets in trouble for creatively trying to avoid jury duty. Right?

Well, when you call in to the radio to tell your story of jury duty tomfoolery, you never know who is listening….

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Why don't jurors listen to directions?

As we heard from Elie last week, a jury is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. The already unpredictable American jury system has gotten even more chaotic over the last several years as the internet has become ubiquitous, at home and in court.

Juror misconduct by internet can lead to mistrials, and it’s becoming increasingly (and unfortunately) more common. Last month the Vermont Supreme Court overturned an unsettling child sexual assault conviction because a juror conducted his own research about the Somali Bantu culture central to the parties in the case.

What a mess…

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If I were in charge, people would look forward to getting one of these.

For my entire life, Republicans have been telling me government doesn’t work. It’s not true, government works just fine: taxes get collected, snow gets removed, communism gets toppled.

Government works, it’s just extremely inefficient. It’s bureaucratic. It’s unable to effectively deal with exceptions. It wastes time.

The waste of time is an unforgivable sin to most Americans. We believe that time is money. We believe our time is our own. We hate when somebody else wastes our time. When the state does it — at the DMV, or at the post office — we’re likely to blow a gasket.

Watching people’s faces in the jury room is like watching time itself being ripped away from people. And half of the people in here have the Liam Neeson face like they’re about to talk to the time thieves and say: “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Does jury duty have to be like this?

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I have successfully avoided jury duty since I moved back to New York in 2003, but this week they finally caught up with me. This week, I’ve had to perform my civic responsibility of sitting in judgment of my peers (like I don’t do that enough already).

Sorry, I had to “be available” to sit in judgement of my peers. Nobody is ever going to pick me for a jury. I blog about law for a living, hold two Harvard degrees, and have a checkered past. I’m not getting impaneled. Instead, I was just looking forward to the rare business day when I didn’t have to invent an opinion or listen to “the internet” pontificate on my weight.

Then the lady who seemed to be in charge of the proceedings told me that I was looking forward to three days of that. I went to protest, but Nurse Ratched told me to sit down and wait for my lobotomy. So i started paying attention to my surroundings — because blogging is how I cope with the slings and arrows of outrageous people asking me to behave like a normal person.

I’ll deal more directly with Nurse Ratched at another time. Today I got an up-close look at the voir dire process in a criminal trial. While I was not picked, I feel like my McMurphy-esque fingerprints will be all over the case.

Let’s take a look inside our clearly broken jury system…

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A game that nobody wants to play.

Even though serving on a jury is considered an important civic duty, people in this country seem to loathe the mere idea of being forced to do it. After all, because of jury duty, people have to miss work — hell, some people even get fired because of it.

And even though jury duty is something that is required by law, instead of just doing it, people would rather make jokes about others being too dumb to get out of it.

One judge in Indiana is well aware of that fact, and he’s on a mission to get people to serve willingly, lest they be forced to face some embarrassing consequences….

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