Monday, June 11, 2007

Model Citizen

Today I completed my jury service in downtown Los Angeles. Although being a juror in LA Superior Court is a lot like being treated like a criminal as well, I felt compelled not to try and avoid being empaneled, on the grounds that I can't argue that jury trials are important for detainees and political suspects and then not be willing to serve myself. Readers of this blog may recall that I also served as an election official this year, but my recent experience was much less dramatic and so I have no worthwhile stories to tell.

Although the constitutional obstacles to various forms of virtuality in legal proceedings have been lessened during the past two decades, I think it is unlikely that we'll have online jury service any time soon. Even the best videoconferencing can leave out critical paralinguistic cues that are assumed to be key to verifying the truthfulness of witnesses and the right of confrontation inherited from English common law places a high premium on face-to-face contact.

Labels: ,


Blogger trillwing said...

As always, nice post.

My parents live in LA County, and my dad in particular has served a lot of time on juries--so much so that he calls himself a "professional jury foreman." I think he's served eight or nine times in a number of different courthouses, including Compton. I always wonder about that "jury of one's peers" thing in such cases. Does a white, retired schoolteacher who lives in a $1.5 million home really qualify as a peer of the working-class, urban people of color on whose jury he's called to serve?

On the one hand, I think it's important that the jury represent a good cross-section of the population. On the other hand, I worry that a jury heavy on middle-class white people whose employers offer jury pay doesn't necessarily serve working class defendants well. In my dad's case, he was a special ed teacher for urban students of color and worked extensively with their families. But my mom? Not so much with the lived experience with such populations. Her opinion rarely matters to the court anyway, as she usually gets dismissed from jury pools because her father was in the LBPD.

Anyway, such issues don't keep me up at night, but I do fret about them whenever I think about jury duty.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

In LA County, you're absolutely right that more serious and complicated cases that will take more than a week are generally tried by juries made up of government employees.

Because I am employed by a public institution that has no limit on my compensated jury participation, yesterday I was instructed to put my paperwork in the "unlimited" stack with the other city, county, state, and federal employees.

Even without the considerations about race or income that you point out, our loyalty to government authority seems a potential issue.

12:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home