Susan Smith Blakely

Best Friends at the Bar: Be Nice To Everyone In The Courthouse

Editor's Note: Ms. JD is excited to announce that Susan Smith Blakely, author of Best Friends at the Bar, will be speaking at Ms. JD: She Leads on October 5, 2012. This post originally appeared on the Best Friends at the Bar blog.

Be nice to everyone you meet in the courthouse.  One of them may turn out to be a juror in your case! This seems particularly apropos with all of the citizen attention on juries in the aftermath of the Casey Anthony trial.  But, I also have some personal experience with this.

When I was a young lawyer, I had my first jury trial in a courthouse where I was quite familiar.  As I entered the courthouse on the morning of the first day of trial, I noticed a man who seemed uncertain about where he was going.  I approached him and asked if I could help.  He told me the room number that he was looking for, and I said I was going that way and suggested that he follow me.  Together we found the room, and I immediately recognized it as the place where potential jurors report.

Many jury trials took place in that courthouse every day and still do, but I knew right then and there that I had done the right thing in taking time for that gentleman.  I knew it was a long shot, but there was a possibility that he could end up on the jury in my case.  I gave it a moment’s thought and then forgot about it and got on with last minute trial preparations.

It was a long morning of pre-trial motions before the judge began the jury voir dire and impaneling process.  It was a simple case, and the process moved quickly.  Soon the jury was impaneled, and there in the second row of the jury box was the man who I had helped. We did not know each other, and we had no past business dealings. I didn’t even know his name. His responses had been totally correct to all of the judge’s questions. But, there he was smiling at me, and I smiled back.

I asked to approach the bench, and the judge granted my request.  I told him about the “encounter” with the juror in the second row, and the judge smiled, too. I was young and inexperienced, and the judge was kind.  He knew the encounter did not amount to prejudice, but he did not chastise me for wasting his time.  That was all.  The juror in the second row stayed in the second row, still smiling.

So, you never know when you might be helping a potential juror. However, if it ever happens to you, I hope it turns out differently. As for me, I got a directed verdict against my client at the end of the first day.

There just was not much time to get to know the juror in the second row!

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