When jurors bring expertise

The decay of occupational exemptions to jury service means that more doctors, nurses and other persons with considerable professional expertise are making it into jury pools and even sometimes being allowed to sit as jurors, at least assuming that lawyers decline to use challenges to exclude them. One Nassau County, N.Y. judge even recalls “presid[ing] […]

The decay of occupational exemptions to jury service means that more doctors, nurses and other persons with considerable professional expertise are making it into jury pools and even sometimes being allowed to sit as jurors, at least assuming that lawyers decline to use challenges to exclude them. One Nassau County, N.Y. judge even recalls “presid[ing] over a business dissolution case in which the lawyers allowed an accountant to sit on the jury. ‘Why they left the accountant on I’ll never know, but the lawyers were quite satisfied,” he said. (Imagine — relevant life experience not being screened out in the course of the jury selection process!) Oregon prosecutor Joshua Marquis, an official with the National District Attorneys Association, does harbor a prejudice against one particular kind of professional called to jury service, namely lawyers themselves. “They’re terrible jurors — I should hit myself in the face with a stick if I ever let a lawyer on a jury again.” (Leonard Post, “Dealing With Jurors’ Expertise”, National Law Journal, Dec. 23).


  • In the early ’90’s I was News Director of a radio station and was called for jury duty. I was sure there was no way a member of the press was going to make it thru jury selection and even requested to be excluded because I had not only reported on the details of the case, spoken to officers involved and read the police reports, but had to report on the progress of the trial as well. However I had a reputation of balance and fairness in my reporting and both the Prosecution and Defense Attys. knew me and did not object while the Judge did not buy my “I have to remain impartial” excuse. He smiled and said “then you will make a perfect juror. Take a seat in the box”

  • You know, if you’re confident that your client is in the right and the case involves a professional opinion that a juror has the capacity to not only understand but maybe even explain to the other jurors, I don’t see why you wouldn’t that professional on the jury.

    If you think you’re client’s claims are dubious, however, you’d probably be better served to kick off the pros and let the laymen handle it.

    But I agree about kicking attorneys out of the pool. Lawyers over-analyze, get all huffy and confuse their personal opinions with the law. A lawyer on the jury will do nothing but sow the seeds of confusion.

  • Attorneys do not want fellow attorneys on juries precisely because lawyers are not easily confused. Lawyers, as well as other logical thinkers such as engineers, are able to understand and analyze complex evidence, understand the central legal issues and the requisite burden of proof in a case, and apply the relevant facts to the law.

  • A few years ago I served on a jury in a civil case against a machine manufacturer. During the trial one of the so called experts stated something that I knew to be incorrect. During a recess, I asked to speak to the judge and told him what was going on and that I knew from having used that type of machine before that the statement was wrong. I was thanked for my service up to that point and was removed from the jury, being replaced by an alternate. I still wonder if the statement influenced the outcome of that trial. My brother-in-law told me that it just proved his point that the truth has no business in court unless it is to someone’s advantage.

  • James,

    What prevented you from approaching the other attorney with your concerns once you were dismissed from the jury?

    Is there a legal rule against this?

  • I was told by the Judge that I wasn’t to discuss this with anyone associated with the trial or the media. At the time my job required a security clearance and I wasn’t about to jeopardize that.

  • I am a lawyer and was chosen to serve on a jury for, of all things, a legal malpractice case.

    I assume neither side wanted to show any sign of weakness by stiking me.

    I refused to serve as foreman, however, although I believe I was helpful to the other jurors by explaning the convoluted jury instructions we were given.

    One lesson I learned – if you sue a law firm for malpractice, and the firm defends itself at trial – best not to be out-lawyered in the courtroom.

  • In the days of King John and the Magna Carta, the jurors had watched the boundaries of the property being pointed out at the time of the transfer, and now in dispute at a trial. They knew the criminal from chilhood, his prior acts. They served as experts in the local facts of the case, for a wisdom of the crowd advantage.

    The lawyers eliminated that wisdom of the crowd advantage to replace it with poor saps who cannot get out of jury duty, are easily manipulated with cheap theatrics. If any juror cannot be manipulated, they are excused. These shenanigans are permitted by judges whose canpaigns are financed by these lawyers.

    A better tactic would have been to wait for the verdict. If it was wrong, then tell the judge you knew all about the machine, to cause a mistrial. The risk is that the little caesar on the bench would throw the truth telling juror in jail. Tell the truth, go to jail.

    Despite all that lawyer trickery, plaintiffs in civil suits lose about 75% of the time. Even the hopelessly ignorant juries find no merit in most cases.

  • I am a lawyer specializing in civil litigation, and I was not unselected to serve (note the phraseology) on a jury in a small criminal case. Presumably the prosecutor felt that I was a conservative sort, being a defense lawyer. But he probably did regret it after the acquittal. Being a lawyer, I think I had a good sense of the meaning of “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

  • As a cell biologist, I have always looked forward to (at least once) serving on a jury, where I could put my training for systematic thinking to good use. Alas, as I pass into my 4th decade of life, I’ve never even been called.

  • I was voir dired for a complex contractual dispute, and was the first person thrown off the panel once it became clear that I was the only person there that even knew what a financial instrument was. Instead, I was permitted to serve as an alternate in a LA County civil case where the only dispute was damages.

    It was a painful experience where I watched one attorney make an incorrect hearsay objection, the opposing attorney fail to explain why the objection was wrong, and the judge make the wrong ruling. Everyone was remarkably disrespectful of the jury’s time; we’d go through maybe three hours of testimony a day because witnesses weren’t ready to be scheduled. As a second-alternate, I wasn’t allowed to return to my office as the jury deliberated because they might reach a verdict; this was so even though the attorneys returned to their offices that were a half-hour further away on the 10. As I watched the economic expert stumble through an explanation of net present value, it struck me at that moment that I could step down from the box and, knowing nothing about the case, do a better job than either of the attorneys, the witness, or the judge. The jury (without me) ended up reaching a compromise verdict because of one juror who insisted on payment even as video evidence showed that the plaintiff was faking.

    It was a confidence-builder to see that none of these people were starving for lack of work. But not so much a confidence builder that the status quo was an efficient means of resolving disputes.

  • Ted could not get out of jury duty. That’s funny.

    He should have raised his hand to correct the judge’s misruling. That would have done it.

    Next time I am called, because I am stupid enough to vote, I may decide to serve. I wonder if they have internet access to Overlawyered in jail. I would send messages from there.

    I have been excused a dozen times by describing experience in tribunals, as litigant and expert.

    Vote if you want to be called. Tell them you know about something to be excused.