Monday, December 08, 2008

Jury duty

Today I showed up in Chinatown for jury duty, which I had put off twice (out of town the first time, teaching my Tax I class the second). Wouldn't you know it, I got picked for a jury. Civil trial, and I am hoping it will be very short or perhaps even settle. It's likely to an interesting episode albeit with tedious stretches, but I will begrudge the lost time. More when I am free to speak - no need to test here the rules against jurors discussing still-pending trials.

Meanwhile, I see that the Tax Deals class I will be co-teaching with Mihir Desai in the spring has seen its enrollment shoot up from zero (because initially it had not been listed in time) to 8 on Friday, to 21 at the start of today, to full capacity of 25 by the time I was being picked for that jury. Nice to see that there is live interest out there.

UPDATE (Thursday, 12/11): I am now officially off the hook, as the case settled.

Jury duty involves a whole lot of waiting around, and going to the courthouse then leaving again when they conclude that they don't need you for a while. But at least in the Manhattan New York State court (I've heard differently about the Bronx), they make extraordinary efforts to keep people in the jury pool reasonably happy. The building has wireless, carrels are available, the court personnel are gracious and polite, they try to minimize inconvenience, etcetera. Indeed, I even got a Juror Appreciation Week coffee mug. The jury pool seemed to mirror the Manhattan population, though perhaps with a slight tilt towards the affluent and professional sector. This may help explain the consistent courtesy and (up to a budget-constrained point) catering to our comforts.

On Monday afternoon, 19 of us were randomly called for a civil case that we ended up learning about in some detail from the attorneys during the voir dire. Apparently, a financial institutions executive driving a Mercedes had hit a pedestrian. The victim and plaintiff, according to the defense attorney, was a gracious and lovely woman "of a certain age," which turned out, as best I could tell when I saw her later, to mean in her mid to late 60s.

Ouch. Even though apparently there was no DUI issue, this does not sound like a case that you would want to send a jury. But of course it depends on how hard the plaintiff was pushing for disputable damages. The defense attorney spent a great deal of time during the voir dire explaining how nice and lovely the plaintiff was, and how he hoped we nonetheless could (a) understand his sad duty to impeach her on cross, and (b) retain our objectivity and award only modest damages if we were skeptical about her claims, apparently involving dental work.

Apart from the defense attorney's trying to precondition us to fight our expected pro-plaintiff sympathies, the main focus of the voir dire was on whether anyone had civil suit or car accident experiences that would make them biased. Three people claimed they would be unduly biased due to personal experiences of this kind, but all three appeared to me primarily motivated by the understandable desire to avoid being picked. Another three people appeared to have too little English language comprehension to be feasible jurors. This left 13 of us for 8 slots (6 jurors plus two alternates). The chosen ended up including not just me but another lawyer and also a doctor (who might have ended up being our go-to juror on medical testimony).

The 8 of us ended up spending Tuesday sitting in a small room, then being sent home for a few hours, then going to the courtroom and sitting around a bit more before being told that the trial would start Thursday morning. Today, we sat around for about a half hour and then were called in by the judge and told that the case had settled.

On the way out, the defense attorney greeted me as professor. I expressed surprise that I had been chosen for the jury, and he said that he, too, had been surprised that they (i.e. he and the plaintiff's attorney) had picked me.

I hope my certificate of service arrives promptly, as the feds have already sent me a juror questionnaire and thus are likely to summon me soon.

1 comment:

Da Man said...


First Drunk Driving Conviction
Your first conviction for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in the State of New York with a BAC of .08 percent or higher is a misdemeanor. You will be fined from $500 to $1,000 and you could spend up to 1 year in jail. Your drivers license will be suspended for a minimum of 6 months and you will be ordered to pay a mandatory conviction surcharge. You will also be ordered alcohol screening and evaluation prior to sentencing.
Second Drunk Driving Conviction
Your second conviction for a DWI in New York State within 10 years of the first DWI will be a Class E Felony. This felony will cost you a minimum fine of $1,000 or up to $5,000. You will also receive a minimum jail sentence of 10 days in jail or be ordered to perform 60 days of community service. The minimum 10 day jail sentence can be increased by the court up to 7 years in jail. Your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year plus you will have to pay for an ignition interlock device that will be placed on your vehicle once your suspension is over. The court will also have you pay for your alcohol assessment.


Third Drunk Driving Conviction
A 3rd drunk driving conviction in New York is a class D felony. You will be fined a minimum of $2,000 up to $10,000. You could be sentenced up to 7 years in jail, 10 days of which is mandatory. The court may also order you to serve 60 days of community service. Your driver license will be revoked for a minimum of 1 year plus you will have to pay for an ignition interlock device that will be placed on your vehicle once your suspension is over.
The State of New York prohibits driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 percent or above. The .08 limit is used throughout the United States as the benchmark for the "impaired" driver. New York State has lower limits for Commercial drivers (.04) and drivers under the age of 21 (.02). The laws for drivers under 21 are effectively a zero tolerance law and a minor could lose the privilege to drive until they become an adult. The New York law also addresses driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or both.
Like other states across the country, New York State has an implied consent law. This law means that all drivers on the roadways of New York agree to submit to a chemical test of their blood, breath or urine of an officer of the law suspects the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you refuse such a test you drivers license will be suspended in court and revoked for a minimum of 1 year. You will also be fined $500 on your first refusal and $750 for your second