My Day on Jury Duty

Around Thanksgiving I received a summons for jury duty here in Las Vegas. I was asked to report on a day I had an Appeal scheduled (which had taken lots of negotiating to find a date that worked for everyone), so I had my summons date changed to January 4th. I thought you mind find my day interesting…for those who will be serving.

Back in 1989 I served on jury duty in Van Nuys, California. My then employer paid for wages for up to two weeks of jury duty. The one thing I remember most about the service was “Hurry up and wait.” A 15 minute break routinely lasted 20 – 25 minutes. It was, at times, excruciatingly slow.

Fast forward 27 years and change states. I was summoned for jury duty here in Las Vegas, with a report time of high noon. The first hour included thanking us for coming, instructions on parking, and instructions on what we could and could not do. After watching a video on the court process and a 15 minute break (yes, it ran 20 minutes), 60 of us were called for a criminal panel. (Either 14 or 16 jurors were needed–it’s a little unclear if there would be two or four alternates.)

The judge and the attorneys described the case and witnesses, and asked all of us (in turn) whether any of us had some reason why we couldn’t serve on the trial that would last an estimated four days, and whether we knew any of the witnesses. After questioning all of us generally, we were sent on a 15 minute break…that ran 25 minutes.

We then reentered the court, and the first 24 individuals received more extensive questioning on their backgrounds and whether or not they could fairly try the case. This took ninety minutes, and after that the attorneys began exercising their preemptory challenges on jurors. The preemptory challenges were done so that you didn’t know who was removed; rather, the judge played static (yes, static) on the court speakers so everyone in the court couldn’t hear a thing. The attorneys then went up for a discussion with the judge, then exited the court to talk. After another 15 25 minutes, the judge excused the first 24 prospective panelists with an order to return tomorrow. The other 30 or so individuals left (myself included) were then excused from jury duty. (Nevada has a rule: One day or one trial–if you serve for your one day be it sitting in the jury services room or are called for a case and are not needed, your jury service is done.) So I cannot be called back for jury duty for 18 months.

Some thoughts for prospective jurors:

1. Bring a book, your laptop/tablet, and lots of patience. The legal process reminds me of the IRS Practitioner Priority Service—slow.

2. I had nice conversations with fellow jurors while we were waiting (and waiting). Our panel was really a cross-section of Las Vegas: There were at least two surgeons, a legal counsel for one of the major hotel chains, several dealers (most of whom happen to work for the same hotel), a couple housewives, and several students. We were really diverse (in how we looked, too) and it’s clear to me that the defendant would be tried by a jury of his peers.

3. For a case where you summons a panel at 1:45pm (the time we headed up to the courtroom), realize that it will be impossible to complete voir dire on all 60 people in the three hours you have. Perhaps just taking 30 people and if more are needed, you get those individuals tomorrow? I suspect, though, the procedure in Nevada is to always take a panel of 60 no matter what.

4. I do appreciate the judge, the marshal, and the jury services personnel. All were friendly, and they did answer the questions we had.

So it’s back to the real world tomorrow.


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