I've never been involved in litigation. Nor ever empaneled on
a jury. So, have never *observed* the proceedings in a Court.
Typically, I get "served" to report for jury selection in
January/February (no idea if this is by design or just coincidence).
Expecting NOT to be selected -- but, having made the trip downtown
to the courthouse -- I'd like to take advantage of that time to
actually *observe* something (other than the jury pool milling about
waiting to be called).
OTOH, I'm not keen on spending days/weeks repeating the trip just
to see an entire case tried.
So, suggestions as to what sort of case I should go looking for?
A half/full day and done?
And, how do I determine the nature of each case being tried? The
courtrooms have signs outside but those don't describe (in lay terms)
the case(s) being heard within... Presumably, there will be a clerk
somewhere in the facility that can tell me what each one involves?
I am sure it depends on the area you are in. For just the local court
around here you are usually obligated for a week. They may select the jury
one day and try a case the next day. Some cases will only take a short time
and some may take several days or longer. In that case you may be on for
more than a week if the trial lasts more than a week. Here they give a
phone number to call after 5 in the evening and you may or may not have to
show up the next day.
As to the case, it will be whatever kind they have.
Yes, it's varied, for me, in the past. Sometimes I can check
a website a day or two before and know if my "group" has been
summarily excused. Other times I have to drive downtown and
report, in person. Then, get shuffled from one courtroom
to another -- until they decided they've got enough "bodies"
for the cases at hand.
[I think there are different pools on a weekly basis?]
There are also differences between Civil Court, Criminal
Court, Federal Court and Grand Juries.
Yes, but I suspect I wouldn't want to tune in on a
case that will be litigated for days/weeks (murder trial?).
I imagine most *civil* proceedings are relatively short
(except, perhaps, trip-and-fall where you may need
testimony from "experts", etc.)
Grand Juries, I think, are empaneled for a fixed amount of time
and "hear" multiple (potential) cases (?)
Most courts will have you just sitting in a jury room waiting for a call
from the court to bring in another 12 or 20 jurors for voir dire. Bring
a book, an iPad/Pod and be prepared to stay in the room other than for
bathroom breaks or a meal. They don't want you wandering around while
awaiting your turn.
Pray then, that you are not selected for Grand Jury duty. Depending on
the jurisdiction you could wind up spending one day a week, a couple
days a month, etc. for anywhere from one month to twelve months.
When you report in to the Jury Commission, check and see if you can
"volunteer" for a coroner's jury (if your county uses that system). I
showed up, they asked for volunteers and I said I'd be more than happy
to serve on one. At the time coroner's jury was a one shot deal. I
showed up and the coroner needed 6 jurors and 8 were "drafted" for the
day. She asked if anyone had anything they'd rather be doing and she
allowed two folks to leave (I stayed) and they did and were credited
with having served.
You don't get a choice in the type of case you sit on. You go where
they send you.
Again, no choice but if through some quirk of fate or procedure you can
just wander around the easy way to determine if a case is civil or
criminal is Criminal = People of the State of Illinois, etc. vs. John
Doe and Civil = John Doe vs. James Smith and Target Corporation.
Actually I do the opposite, just tell them what they want to hear in
the hopes of sitting on a jury in a victimless crime type of case where
I can use jury nullification to kick the persecutor in the balls. (Even
if the other jurors can't be convinced, one holdout is enough to have a
mistrial declared.) Hasn't happened yet though. All I've ever gotten
on have been boring fender-bender type civil cases.
Roger Blake (Posts from Google Groups killfiled due to excess spam.)
On Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 3:42:41 PM UTC-5, Unquestionably Confused wrote:
I was called for jury duty last year and sat in a room with a whole bunch
of people (100+?). There was an insurance case about to be heard and a
list of names were called to come to the commissioner's desk and pick
up a questionnaire.
They were told that they were to fill out the questionnaire, which would
be reviewed by the attorneys for both parties. This would be Phase 1
of the voir dire process. You would either be dismissed as having served
or you would be called for Phase 2 which would be a face-to-face voir dire.
After that you would either be dismissed as having served or you would
end up on the jury.
My name wasn't called, but I was curious as to what might be in the
questionnaire, so I strolled up with those that had been called and
grabbed a copy. I honestly thought that they just had a stack of
questionnaires and that they would not miss one. Really!
As I'm reading through the questions (Have you have ever dealt with
an insurance company because of an auto accident? Has anyone you know
died in an auto accident? etc.) the commissioner picked up the mic
"We seem to be short one questionnaire. Did anyone whose name I did
not call pick up a questionnaire?"
I stood up with the questionnaire, got a dirty look from the commissioner
and returned it to the desk. He asked me for my name, but I did not see him
write it down or anything.
About a 1/2 hour later he picked up the mic and announced "We have more
potential jurors than we need for this week's case load. If I call
your name, you are dismissed as having served."
My name was the first one called and all other names were read off in
alphabetical order. My last name does not put me anywhere near the top
of an alphabetical list. I got a couple of knowing smiles from the
crowd as I got up to leave.
It wasn't my plan to be "asked" to leave, but I guess they didn't want
me hanging around. Perhaps they thought that I would be trouble.
On Tue, 12 Jan 2016 13:50:15 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03
It sounds that way.
I lived in Brooklyn NY for 12 years where behaviour like yours would
be seen as normal. Of course there was a stack and lots of people
want to see what's on the form.
I was called 3 times iirc in my 12 years there, and in those days it
was a week or two, maybe getting out one day early at the end, hours
each day in a big room with 100 other people spent reading, but I only
got on one jury**, where the plaintiff was a terrible witness for
herself, just wouldn't say what her attorney wanted her to say, what
she had probably told the attorney before, even though it was t he
crux of the case. The case was settled before the end of the trial
and the attorney found me still in the courtroom and asked how i was
leaning. I said I'd tell her if she told me how the case got settled.
And she did and iirc the woman got something but only 1/n of the
amount she might have gotten if she'd said what I thought she was
going to say.
**I was voir dired for another, but I thought one of the attorneys was
stupid compared to my roommate and friend who had just graduated law
schoool and couldn't get as good a job as the stupid lawyer had, so I
resented him. I told the judge I should be excused, and the judge
asked why. I didnt' want to say, Because the prosecutor is stupid, so
I said I didn't want to say, and the judge said okay.
In suburban Baltimore, I got one jury duty letter than I forgot about
and never showed up, and I feel bad about that, and I've been waiting
for another one to come, but it's been 20 years and it hasn't. I vote
in every election. When I'm not busy enough, I may call them and
On 1/12/2016 1:42 PM, Unquestionably Confused wrote:
Yes, I'm familiar with the process of reporting for jury duty. My question was
concerning: I'm in the courthouse and I can now go home (dismissed from
serving). But, as I'm already *there*, why not sit in on an ongoing case
to see what's involved (as a spectator, not as a juror). Obviously, I wouldn't
want to pick a case that is going to drag on for days and days -- I'll not
see it to its conclusion (I have no desire to make the trip into town
on OTHER days, but, if I'm there ALREADY...)
Friends/colleagues suggest that if I was ever at a point where I *might*
be seated, my "juror questionaire" would probably prompt either or both
parties to have me dismissed as a peremptory challenge. ("We don't want people
who are logical thinkers sitting on the jury as they'll confuse things by
focusing on FACTS")
Again, I'm dealing with the situation where I'm *not* serving on a jury.
I.e., as if I happened to walk into the courthouse TODAY as a "concerned
citizen" and wanted to see how The Legal System works.
Ah, good point! Though I'd still not know anything of the substance
of the case.
Depends on your area, possibly even different parts of the state and it
could change with time.
Here they call in a big pool of potential jurors, pick who they want and
dismiss the rest. Some places, you might get jury duty for a month and
have to show up every day and only be dismissed after you get called. A
grand jury may be part time but last for months.
I've been called a total of 5 times but only served once. It was a
medical malpractice case. Very enlightening experience that I think
everyone should have. I learned a lot from the trial, not just the case
itself, which was interesting but on how a jury deliberates.
I've also given a couple of depositions, filed a suit in magistrates
court and one in superior court both of which were settled in my favor
out of court, worked with patent and environmental lawyers, and have 2
There are a lot of misconceptions about our legal system and getting
involved can make you understand it better.
I've also done some technical consulting for lawyers. Got screwed by
one not paying on a drug case and overpaid by another on an accident case.
They have any description? Not just the names of the parties?
No, I woudn't assume that. There is no one there with that job.
There is a docket, which is posted. You can fit maybe 25 cases on one
page, so there isn't any detail. And these days, and certainly in
Baltimore and Baltimore County, the docket is online, so you can look
the night before, but that wouldnt' include the details of the case
either, and I don't think the details are ever published to the
public until the case has been heard and decided, and if it's appealed
and that case is heard, it's reported in a reporter, and will be
online too probably.
A few cases will have a back story that has made the newspapers, so
googling the names may find it, but otoh, those might well not be the
one-day cases you want.
35 years ago I was at NYU for an errand and after I finished that, I
took a walk and ended up downtown at the Federal Courthouse, the one
you see on a lot of crime shows, especially Law & Order, with the
wide, high steps, and when I went in, I asked the guard what they had
going. And it's not his job either, but he told me about one he said
would be interesting. I'm sure he wasn't just guessing. So I went,
and it was mail fraud (since this was federal court) but it had so
much more. The secretary was having an affair with the boss, and she
was either a witness or a co-defendant, I forget, and there was more
to it than that, maybe some violence. It would have made a great TV
show or movie. But the end of the day came and, like you say, they
weren't done. I was comparitively free the next day, but still didn't
want to come back. I didn't think it was big enough to make the
papers so I didn't even write the parties' names down. Nowadays
somewhat smaller cases will make it to the web, I think, although I've
never found a place where verdicts are reported. Havent' looked
A few years ago, there was one case I was really interested in but the
two times I went downtown, it was postponed. There was a docket on
the wall that listed it and said that. So after the first time, I
called first. (I got stuck the second time maybe because it was
postponed that morning, when I was on my way, and I'd only callled the
previous day.) But finally the woman on the phone volunteered that
there was a website with the docket. Maybe if I'd asked, the earlier
women I talked to would have told me that. A third time I was
downtown already in my car playing the radio when the news said it was
postpone or settled, so I turned around.
I'd suggest you ask the guard, or anyone else, but be prepared for
them not to know.
On Wednesday, January 13, 2016 at 4:02:42 AM UTC-5, Micky wrote:
About 10 years ago I was in Manhattan for a business trip. I was strolling
around Times Square when I saw a crowd around an area that had been taped
off with yellow police tape. There was a coroner's van and a few police
cars on scene. As we all know "coroner's van" = "dead body" so I went over
to see what was going on.
As I approached I recognized a number of the people within the taped off area
and realized that they were filming an episode of Law and Order. Off to the
right I noticed about 10 people, dressed in business/business casual
clothes, just like me. There was a guy facing the group and I heard him say
"When I give you the signal, I want you to walk right down this way and keep
going until you are past the van."
I slowly walked over and when the producer(?) was looking the other way, I
stood behind the group, trying to blend in as much as possible. I was thinking
to myself "I am about to be on Law and Order!"
The guy eventually turned back to the group, looked it over and then pointed
directly at me. "You don't belong here. Please move away."
On Wed, 13 Jan 2016 06:16:43 -0800 (PST), DerbyDad03
Except NYC has a Medical Examiner and not a coroner. I'm not saying I
would have thought of that in your shoes. But I know this well
because I once took a course taught by the Acting? Chief Medical
Examiner of NY.
And I once went to an autopsy at the Medical Examiner's office on 1st
Avenue. NYC is big enough that it has its own building (plus several
other locations). Though when I saw him and especially that he was
my age, I decided I'd seen one autopsy and that was enough. That
autopsy was of a 60 or70 year old woman. Even then, I asked someone,
Where should I go if I have to throw up? He ignored me.
And come to think, I don't know if I ever saw one of their vehicles --
I can't remember ever being where someone had died, other than once
seeing a hearse driving out of the funeral home on Columbus Ave. --
but I'm sure I never saw one labeled that way, even in traffic. I
suspect they are in "plain clothes" except maybe the license plate and
a card in the window, on the dashboard, or in the rear window.
Yes, you learned your behaviour in Flushing. When I said I lived in
Brooklyn, I was including all of NYC. New Yorkers aren't the "sit
down and shut up" kind, they're not pansies. They're not rude
despite the media stereotype, but they have get-up-and-go. Every
subgroup of New Yorkers has it.
When I was a teenager, we used to hang out at the Kissena Velodrome in Queens.
The track is still there, definitely upgraded from 4 plus decades ago, as per this picture. Note the woods surrounding the track.
We not only hung out at the track, but also in the woods around the track
where there were trails and other places to do the things that teenagers
do in the woods.
One time we came across a dead body. It looked like a homeless guy and
there was a gun lying next to the body. It was more than a few days old,
based on the smell and the bugs. We were fun loving kids, not a group known
to shy away from a little trouble, but dead bodies and guns were not something
we wanted to mess with. This was way before cell phones so we jumped on
our bikes, rode into a nearby neighborhood, called the police and then
led them back to the body.
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