Jury Duty

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    I have had the distinct “pleasure” of servicg jury duty 3 times in the last 12 years. Twice in the NY State system and once in the Federal System.

    12 years ago I was called to serve in the state system and after sitting in the “big room” for 2 days waiting to be called (this is Kings County prior to current number/call in system), I was finally called as a potential in a criminal case and was one of the 1st 12 so had to sit in Jury box in the courtroom. I listed to the judge drone on about the case (was a murder trial) and the 2 lawyers talk about their clients, the judge stated it was expected to be a case that went 6-8 weeks and then asked who feels they should be exempt and went through the 1st 12 in the jury box. The automatics went quickly (related to cop, had relative who was shot things like that) but the judge wasnt giving out the exemptions. I tried things like, I recently started a new job, wife was 8 months pregnant, nothing was working. Finally in frustration I blurted out “its not fair, just because this low life shoots someone, I have to jeopardize a new job and sit here for 8 weeks”. That worked wonders. The defense attorney immediately jumped up and wanted me excused for prejudice against his client. Was I ever happy.

    The NY State courts in the state of NY on all forms recommend bringing along a laptop or something else to keep you busy “while you wait”. 6 months ago when I was called, I dutifully brought along my laptop (as did 90% of the people there). wouldnt you know it, NO OUTLETS for the power chords. About 90 minutes into the waiting you heard all the battery life warnings and slowly the laptops were closed.


    This headline just in from AP:

    “Texas man jailed 83 days for skipping jury duty”


    PM, on behalf of ames I’ll say, Thanx for the comfort, greatly appreciated;)



    why 83 days?


    Texas must have stricter rules for that then NY!


    ames: you got it! 😉


    As far as I know, it’s pretty difficult to get excused for not showing up at all (unless it’s on a Friday afternoon) but once you get into the courtroom they ask you certain questions to determine juror eligibility, like “Would you trust the testimony of a police officer more than that of any random person?” I know people who answer yes to that one on purpose just to get out of serving. I happen to think jury duty is very honorable and would love to be a part of it, but as yet I’ve never been summoned. Anyway, the likelihood is that you won’t get picked to serve- they call hundreds of people in and end up with a jury of 12 plus a few alternates. My mom recently had jury duty; the main thing that bothered her was that security wouldn’t let her in with a crochet hook! If she has to sit there all day waiting for her number to be called, she’d rather get some work done on my brother’s next yarmulke.


    A jewish mother will never be selected to serve on a jury because she will always insist that she is the one who is guilty.


    The first time I was called was right after college. I was still learning in Yeshiva so I didn’t have to worry about a job. I was selected for the first case I was panelled for. One of the lawyers practically handed me an exemption.

    Lawyer: (Do) you practice / study Jewish law?

    Me: Yes

    Lawyer: (something to the effect of) our laws are different. Will you have a problem deciding this case based on those laws as opposed to Jewish Laws?

    <<Here is where I could have said yes and gone back to the jury pool but I wanted to sit on a case>>

    Me: No problems.

    It was a personal injury case against a doctor. By the end of the trial, I could have been Board Certified to perform epidurals and perhaps even spinals. A bunch of expert witnesses, after introducing themselves on the stand explained in detail how to insert a needle into the epidural space, what signs to look for indicating the wrong vs. the right spot.

    It was a weeklong learning experience.



    Nu, what was the verdict?


    Doctor did not commit malpractice. He followed procedure as prescribed by the Board. There were other factors that were just as probable or more probable to have caused the injury.


    i heard a story about a guy who got called for jury duty and got out of it in a brilliant way. they asked him what he does for a living and he said “i teach talmud in a high school.” very nice. they start discussing the case and there was one witness to a car accident who happened to be the girlfriend of one of the drivers.

    …of course he cuts off the lawyer and starts talking about how according to jewish law there needs to be TWO MALE witnesses who aren’t related to each other or to any of the people involved and noge’a badovor on and on… every time a lawyer said something about “law” he managed to bring in the talmud… took them about 30 seconds to write him off.

    a few minutes later he looked over to the other group and saw a guy that he happened to know so he went over to talk to him. then he was dismissed and went to go wait on line (they have to file it or something? not sure how it works)

    not more than five minutes later he saw the second guy coming out laughing hysterically.

    what happened? the lawyers saw the two of them talking and when they questioned the second one they asked how they knew each other.

    then they asked “do you believe in everything he believes in?”


    “get out!”


    If this story is true, it would be a Chillel Hashem in a big way.


    ha i think it’s true. why is that a chilul hashem?


    agreed. plus there are easier ways to get yourself out of being selected (if you want to get out of it) than by making a fool of yourself by trying to discredit the American justice system.


    hey there was more to the story i was just too lazy to type it. sounded to me like he made the court system sound kinda stupid.

    if i’m remembering correctly, the lawyer said that in a court room the judge is the law. whatever he decides is true and the jurors have to be willing to be objective enough to accept that.

    so basically, there is no real law. an identical case can take place in the room next door and one judge will decide one way and the other another way and that’s law?

    that’s what the lawyer their said.

    (come to think of it, i should ask my father about that one.)


    i meant “there”


    Moshe, this case did not take place in a Bais Din where Talmudic halacha applies. No frum attorney would make a living if s/he used halacha to win a case rather than the law of the government.

    There are many criteria for Chillel Hashem. One is when your actions could cause someone to say, “If this is how a frum Yid behaves, then I don’t want to be a frum Yid”.

    The teacher was obnoxious and rude and could have created a Kiddush Hashem by being polite and cooperating with the court. From the story, it seems that the courts have preconceptions about frum yidden and for good reason.


    moish, there is of course a great deal of subjectivity to rulings and interpretations. But that is also true in Halachik court – the dayyanim make their decision and that is law – but different dayyanim could have ruled differently. So I’m not sure how that point ridicules the American justice system.

    Also, if you want to go back to the Beis Din Hagadol, the same type of variance in rulings could have existed. Let’s say that someone is brought to beis din and all the judges rule that he is to be put to death. The Halacha is that he goes free. If one of the judges sees reason to acquit but all the others rule that he is to be put to death, he is put to death.

    The interpretation of the judge is the law in the courtroom. If you, as a party (and not as a juror) feel that his decision is a misinterpretation of the law, you are able to appeal his ruling. If the appelate court agrees with you then the decision will be overturned. But to the jury, who almost 100% of the time has an inferior knowledge of the law, the judge’s opinion IS law and they must treat his opinion in that way when hearing the case. This doesn’t make the judge’s opinion into THE law, but it makes it law, persuant to an appeal.


    It’s a chillul Hashem because he was using Judiasm and it’s “books” as a tool to “get out of the system”. He was connecting something that really doesn’t smell good in the eyes of the court with the Talmud. No good- use other tactics

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