Duty Calls

For the first time since becoming a law professor, I’ve been called for jury duty.

For trial attorneys out there, I’m curious: would you rather have a law professor on a jury or a practicing litigator?

Dave blogged last year about his day of jury service in Philadelphia’s First District, but his panel never actually saw a judge.

Dan had a nice post earlier this year on a full-time law professor who acted as a jury foreperson and was then accused by the defendant of improperly influencing his fellow jurors.

My sense is that if you are worried about domination by a single individual, you’d be best to steer clear of professors of any type. For better or for worse, many of us academics like to hear ourselves speak, fancy ourselves rather gifted at “boiling things down” for others, and are experts at twisting arms and delivering subtle barbs in small groups (yes, it turns out that faculty meetings do train you for something other than competing on “Survivor”).

For law professors out there: have you ever served on a jury while a professor? If so, were you the foreperson?

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7 Responses

  1. Len Rotman says:


    I am jealous. As a Canadian law professor, I am ineligible to serve on a jury, as is my spouse (which she claims is why she married me in the first place!).

    I often have wondered why it seems that those who are most interested in serving on a jury either cannot, as is the case with me, or are simply not called upon, while others who would rather do anything but serve on a jury (like my brother-in-law) are called repeatedly.

  2. Doug B. says:

    I had the great fortune to serve on a (small) county GRAND jury, and it was an extraordinary experience. I was only an alternate for some days, so I rarely even had a chance to vote, but I learned so much and would eagerly do it again if given the chance

  3. Eric T. says:

    I hope this answers your question about who gets picked…but the short answer is that you pick the one you want to have a beer with…


  4. Yes I served and yes I was the foreperson (despite my great reluctance).

  5. Adam Benforado says:

    Thanks, Len, Doug, Eric, and Michael – all interesting and helpful!

    Len, I didn’t know about the prohibition on law professors in Canada serving on juries – that’s surprising (and fascinating) to me. Do you know if that’s common in other Commonwealth countries or what the precise origin is?

  6. Brant Lee says:

    I’m late to this party, but a student alerted me to this thread, and I thought I’d chime in. I served as a juror on a med mal case a few years ago, and yes I was the foreperson. It came out on voir dire that one of the defense lawyers was a former student of mine (he seemed vaguely familiar, but I was embarassed not to remember him until he raised it with the court and I then confirmed). I was shocked to be kept on the jury.

    I remember wondering about how much persuasion to attempt, but there wasn’t any problem with me overly influencing the jury. It may be that my looking young and being a minority had something to do with it, but they weren’t much convinced by anything I had to say.

  7. Adam Benforado says:

    Brant, Thanks for the comment – I’m surprised that you were left on the jury as well (luckily, I’ve not been teaching long enough for this to be much of a concern)! On the persuasion front, I expect to encounter a similar dynamic but we shall see next week.