The attacks on the jury system in this country continue in their vociferousness, their ignorance, their dishonesty and their hatred. The corporate, banking, insurance and financial worlds have all combined, since the early 1980’s, in a very clever campaign to besmirch our justice system and undermine the intellectual neutrality of juries. As a trial lawyer, I know this instinctively every time I pick a jury. Every jury selection for the past ten or even fifteen years has involved having to try…
The attacks on the jury system in this country continue in their vociferousness, their ignorance, their dishonesty and their hatred. The corporate, banking, insurance and financial worlds have all combined, since the early 1980’s, in a very clever campaign to besmirch our justice system and undermine the intellectual neutrality of juries.
As a trial lawyer, I know this instinctively every time I pick a jury. Every jury selection for the past ten or even fifteen years has involved having to try to get around the poison that’s been spewed into the ears and hearts of New Jersey citizens and citizens across the fifty states. Yet, armed with the ability to at least ask questions to potential jurors, we do sometimes find out which jurors are most unsuitable and most unable to be neutral. We have, at least, that ability. Yet, nearly every juror, I suppose fortunately in terms of truthfully, answers, “Yes,” when they are asked whether or not they think there are too many lawsuits.
In fact, there aren’t too many lawsuits. In further fact, the rate at which lawsuits have been filed in our country has actually gone down per capita over the last twenty years, but of course, the people that are trying to poison the jury system don’t admit that and don’t spread that information. Corporations are filing more lawsuits than ever, of course, but as far as they’re concerned, they own the court system, just like they own everything else. They can seek justice as often as the like. Just not you.
They’ve been largely successful, but I recently had an experience which continues to restore my faith in the community of jurors called upon to deliver justice.
I took to trial a sexual harassment case in which my client was inappropriately spoken to on several occasions and inappropriately touched on another. On no occasion was there a witness to any of these acts and her employer, a solo practitioner doctor, seemed very satisfied that he would be able to convince a jury that the conduct had never taken place or that, even if it had, it wouldn’t matter.
In addition, the doctor trotted several witnesses in to represent that, although my client had told those witnesses what the doctor had done, that my client had not done so.
Yet the jury saw through those defenses and delivered substantial justice. Here’s why the case was such a pleasure, however, to try.
During the direct examination, my client, very honestly and earnestly, and certainly without having rehearsed it, turned to the jury and told them that she wasn’t even concerned about money, she was only concerned about making sure that the doctor was found responsible for what he did. It’s not something that I was particularly concerned about one way or the other, because it was sincere and truthful. She did only care that the doctor be found responsible. In fact, she’d been waiting for her trial date for a number of years specifically and essentially only for that reason.
Happily, our Law Against Discrimination rewards people for such perseverance and for such courage, and also for such selflessness. In the end, even though the jury did award a moderate amount in damages, which certainly satisfied my client, it truly wasn’t why we were there.
What feels so good is that this jury of people from the community listened attentively, listened carefully, paid attention, and then patiently sorted through the evidence to reach a substantial and just verdict. It validated the process, it validated the Law Against Discrimination, and such verdicts as this always renew my faith, not only in my practice, but also in the jury system.
It works. Never forget it and never let anyone tell you differently.