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My Jury Duty Rant

I just read this Google - Viacom lawsuit update, and it reminded me why the legal system annoys me to no end:
Google's response also demands a trial by jury, moving further away from any possibility for a settlement.

Google demands a trial by jury - isn't that great? If I am ever called to serve on jury duty in a civil case (note: not a criminal case, a civil case) the only question I would want answered is which side demanded a jury trial. I would then vote against that side on principle.

Now I completely understand jury duty when it comes to criminal cases - the state is trying to deprive someone of liberty and perhaps life. An objective panel of peers to decide seems warranted. Not enough people would volunteer to serve as a juror, and perhaps people who would volunteer aren't the folks that you want making these decisions. So sure, requiring people to do this important job makes sense. Jury duty for criminal cases is the right answer. But civil cases?

Civil cases are usually about one thing and one thing only: money. And often times it's not even about whether one side is liable, the only question is how much is owed. Given how lawsuits usually drag on and on, the participants have ample opportunity to settle these mostly financial matters without imposing on the life of John Q. Public. If they are unable to settle it on their own, there are lots of other alternatives as well: arbitration, mediation, etc.

And, at the end of the day, if none of this works and the litigants still can't figure out the right settlement, guess what? There's a group of professionals out there who's exact job it is to decide these very matters. They're called judges and they're readily available.

So, in my mind, any litigant that is demanding a jury trial in a civil case is basically saying that they're unwilling to (a) come to a settlement and/or (b) avail themselves of a professional jurist. Instead, they actively choose to impose on the lives of unrelated 3rd parties for resolution, nevermind whatever else these folks have going on in their lives. In other words, they believe that litigant's time is more important than the jury's time. I happen to disagree.

And to prove it, if I were a juror in a civil case, I'd vote against any side that demands a jury trial. Seems like the right message to send to someone who values my time so little.


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Comments (1)


First, I assume that with opinions like this you no longer maintain a license to practice law.

Second, you should know that your adopted state of California is one of the WORST states when it comes to enforcing jury trial waivers and mandatory arbitration provisions, which are routinely upheld in almost every other state in an effort to make the judicial system more efficient.

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