Stuart F. Cubbon, Esq.
Last week I had the pleasure of taking a case to trial before a jury in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas. I say the pleasure because a jury trial is a unique and awesome event that brings together parties, their lawyers, the court including judge, bailiffs and court reporters, and regular citizens who for a few days turn their live upside down to serve as jurors for their peers.
As an advocate for my clients, jury trials require months and sometimes years of preparation. Before the trial we investigate, take depositions (sworn statements under oath) of parties and witnesses, review and prepare documents which will be presented as evidence, argue motions before the court, and make every effort to settle before trial. But sometimes we cannot agree to settlement terms and that’s when we go to trial.
The amazing part is that the jurors are subpoenaed by the court in advance, and after going through voir dire—the process in which the trial judge and then attorneys question potential jurors to make sure they have no conflicts which would make it difficult to serve on a particular case—eight jurors plus one alternate are seated to hear our civil cases. Criminal juries have twelve jurors. The jurors reflect the diversity of our community in terms of age, income, race and religion. A group of total strangers, they listen to arguments of counsel and testimony of the witnesses, review documentary evidence which is presented, and finally, instructions from the trial judge before they retire to discuss all of this and deliberate until they render their verdict.
Jurors miss work as well as family time for very little compensation, and they have a very difficult job to do. They know that in the end only one side of the trial will be happy but they are sworn to do their job, and they do. But they are compensated in one big way—they receive the satisfaction of knowing they have served their fellow citizens and the process will be there for them if they ever need it. Knowledge that each citizen has the opportunity to have their grievances resolved by their peers is, as I said above, awesome and unique.
If you receive a jury subpoena, don’t despair. Serve, knowing that your service helps maintain the rule of law in our country. As a matter of fact, I recently received my own jury subpoena and look forward to serving in the jury box as a juror as opposed to outside the box as an advocate! I’ll report on that after I serve.