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Having practiced law for several years, it’s kind of strange to say that I’ve only been to court once. We transactional lawyers don’t get much of a chance. In fact, we don’t even know the way to the courthouse. My only real exposure to trials has been what I’ve seen on television and in the movies. Before being called to jury duty, the only courts I had even been inside were moot court at my law school and the food court at the mall. My only appearance inside a real courtroom occurred after I filed an action in small claims court against a former paralegal from The Firm who borrowed money from me and then failed to repay it. The court transcript from my one and only court appearance, if there had been one, would have read like this: Judge: “Are you the plaintiff?” Rodent: “Yes.” Judge: “Is the defendant here in the courtroom?” Rodent: “I don’t know.” Judge: (impatient and irritated) “Do you see the other party here?” Rodent: (perusing the courtroom) “No, I don’t.” Judge: “You’re the plaintiff, right?” Rodent: “Yes, your honor.” Judge: “I rule for plaintiff. Next case.” I was brilliant, the master of the courtroom, the king of debt collection. I won the case and I didn’t even have to play the species card! It’s great living with an undefeated record. When I received a summons for jury duty in the mail a few months ago, I decided to respond. I did so because I wanted to contribute to society, to show my respect and support for our legal system, and to participate in one of the most cherished of American institutions. Oh yeah, there was one other reason I didn’t throw my summons away — the county where I live is cracking down on jury dodgers and I was afraid of what they might do to me. Serving as a juror was not an easy thing for me to do. In fact, it’s never easy for a lawyer sit on a jury. Most people will tell you, whether it’s true or not, that attorneys are rarely selected to sit on juries. Lawyers also have demanding schedules and their own cases often prevent them from sitting through trials. There is also the assumption that lawyers do not make good jurors because they apply too much of their own legal analysis to cases and thus struggle with rendering a verdict. While some or all of the above factors can make it difficult for lawyers to serve on juries, there was one more obstacle I had to overcome on the way to doing my civic duty. That obstacle was in the form of the lawyers I work with who tried to block my way to the jury room. “You’re doing what?” and “Why?” were the most common responses when I told colleagues that I would be out of the office for two weeks on jury duty. Those responses were typically followed by something along the lines of: “I can get you off” or “I know someone at the court who will take care of that for you.” The partners at my firm were pretty much all taken aback when I told them of my plans. Most seemed shocked, as if I was telling them I was going to take a vacation or something outrageous like that. Sadly, my experience with jury duty was not quite so enthralling. Despite sitting through voir dire for several cases, I was challenged in each one — rejected by prosecutors and defense attorneys alike. Over the course of my two weeks (during which I earned in excess of fifty dollars if you figure in compensation for mileage), I witnessed over a hundred challenges to potential jurors. From these observations, I was able to determine that it’s true what they say about lawyers not getting called to serve. Every potential witness who confessed during voir dire to their membership in the bar was bounced out of the jury pool. It was almost as if the word “lawyer” was a magic word for getting off a jury. Some of the other magic words I learned were “law enforcement” and “producer of adult videos.” I was a bit disappointed that I never got to sit through a trial, deliberate and participate in rendering a verdict. I was also disappointed that I was never contacted by one of the former jurors in the O.J. Simpson criminal trial telling me how I could make big money by selling my story. Despite all that, I was happy. Although not called, I had, according to the California Civil Code, served. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected].

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