For the past two days I’ve had the pleasure of serving my Jury summons at the New York Supreme Criminal Court at 111 Centre Street. I’ll skip to the end, and tell you that I was not selected to serve as a Juror. In fact, my ballot was never even pulled, so I was personally never questioned or cross examined.
I came into my jury duty thinking of the justice system as a sleek and powerful machine, but left feeling it’s just exhausted old men. The inefficiency of the jury selection mechanism is unrivaled by any other branch of government I’ve encountered to date–and I travel, obtained a greencard through the 9/11 transition, became an American citizen, hold passports in Canada and Finland, file my own taxes, and operate an LLC.
First, the courts’ operating hours are from approximately 9:30 to 4:30 with a 1 hour 30 minute lunch break and two mandated 15 minute breaks in the mid-morning/afternoon. That’s 5 hours of actual work in a day–who else do you know that works 30-hour weeks? Courts do not move particularly quickly, so the short working days are sorely felt.
Secondly, the jury-selection process includes many items that waste time. For example, jurors show up late to the court in the morning without penalty. On the second day, we were requested to arrive by the crackingly early time of 9:30 AM, but we didn’t get started on the roll call until after 10:00 AM due to late arrivals and the apathetic court staff. The first day we also started well after 10 AM due to a terrible educational video they played while the late arrivals straggled in. The process could be streamlined by assessing fines to no-shows, and drawing a line in the sand for the start time–the court can easily instruct potential jurors to arrive 30 minutes early to give enough time to clear security.
Thirdly, potential jurors should receive educational training in advance of their service date. The two judges easily spent 30 minutes each explaining basic concepts of law before they began to randomly draw jurors. Then, each juror was individually questioned about life experience, marital status, etc in a time consuming process that took about an hour per panel. Why not offload this to an e-learning/quiz online? Jurors could come into the courtroom with their responses already in front of the judges/lawyers to move into the deeper questioning period.
Finally, the right of the plaintiffs/defendants to excuse individual jurors should be limited. I watched entire panels of jurors excused arbitrarily, which makes a mockery of the right to a fair trial. In reality, the jury selection process is when the parties in the case attempt to select the jurors they feel will be most receptive to their arguments, violating the spirit of the law. While the ADAs and defense lawyers said that their goals were only to secure an “impartial jury”, they define an impartial jury as one which entirely aligns with their views.
This also wastes vast amounts of time.
|This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 at 8:32 pm and is tagged with jury selection process, jury summons, minute lunch, american citizen, selection mechanism, lunch break, court staff, minute breaks, jury duty, branch of government, educational video, educational training, line in the sand, greencard, mid morning, operating hours, inefficiency, potential jurors, morning afternoon, juror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback.|