Judge performs jury duty

Judge Linda Fleming happily reported for jury duty Thursday, but was soon struck off the panel by either the defense or prosecution: "I’m not supprised I didn’t get selected." [The Tribune-Democrat]


  1. “I could have been excused, but my job is no more important than anybody’s else’s,” she said. “I don’t let anybody out of jury duty, and you got to do what you ask others to do.” – Judge Linda Fleming

    That’s pretty cool. Too bad she got struck, it would have been a good experience for the rest of the jury too. 

    If you’ve ever wondered where unacknowledged prejudices combined with unintentional logical fallacies from an unaware ordinary person can severely screw someone else, a jury deliberating is an eye-opening experience.

    It happens in the courtroom too, but counsel is often perfectly aware when they try to send the jury to do the same in deliberations.

    1. “I could have been excused, but my job is no more important than anybody’s else’s,” she said. “I don’t let anybody out of jury duty, and you got to do what you ask others to do.” – Judge Linda FlemingTrial

      On the contrary, it is profoundly unfair since there are multiple reasons to free someone from jury duty. Economical reasons come first to mind and I just benefited from it.

      “If you’ve ever wondered where unacknowledged prejudices combined with unintentional logical fallacies from an unaware ordinary person can severely screw someone else, a jury deliberating is an eye-opening experience.”

      Although I agree that few people in life master every rule of rhetoric, juries decisions have proven largely reliable over a long period of time: explain.

      1. To the first part, answering for jury duty is the duty, ignoring the call is the part that bears no excuse and the judge likely sees it that way and probably knew that she would be struck, but she still did her duty. Most people shirk duty by ignoring the summons altogether, some few others shirk duty by lying to be excused, all others did their duty even though the largest number do not sit on a jury in the end.

        The explanation you want is in the post above with the likes, but can be summarized as jury instruction. Juries are reliable because of the limitations set upon them by the court.

        Where I see the judge benefitting -the jurists- had she sat on the jury, would have been her ability to make the distinctions of what is expected of the jury clearer in deliberations for being on the jury and being subject to the same limitations, something most or at least many jurists are confused by altogether.

    2.  My concern would be that other members of the jury would grant excessive deference to the judge in the room – that in effect it would become something other than a jury trial; a trial by judge and eleven jurors who don’t feel qualified to disagree with her.

      I’m sure she would be conscious of that, and do what she could to avoid the situation, but still…

        1. Not sure that tossing an expert into a room full of non-experts and questioning whether their opinions have equal weight constitutes anti-intellectualism.

          1. We have trials by judge and trials by jury. Having a single judge on the jury effectively turns it back into a trial by judge.

          2. No it doesn’t, because jury voting involves value judgements which are entirely subjective. Your analogy breaks down because in a trial by judge their word is the last on the issue.

  2. This isn’t surprising in the slightest.  Lawyers and judges are almost always struck during voir dire.  The very reasonable fear is that lawyers or judges or someone sufficiently skilled in the practice of law will judge a case not on the merit of its facts but on their analysis of the law.  The jury’s only definitive purpose in a court room is to serve as a panel of laypeople to interpret the facts, whereas the judges and attorneys are the adjudicators and presenters of the law.  Evidence rules are based entirely upon what is law (and therefore goes before the judge) or fact (and therefore goes before the jury).  Non-news is non-news.

    1.  That’s what I was going to say. My wife has a law degree and they two times she tried to do jury duty they dismissed her as soon as they found out her law background..

      1. Jury nullification would definitely have the same tampering effect, but in practice it is really the opposite; the law says one thing, but as a matter of “conscience” the jury decides, despite concurring that the facts apply, to issue a null sentence.  In that sense, the jury is “rewriting” the law so to speak, but the process is different.  In a normal case, the jury decides the facts and, given the construct of the law via jury instructions, decides whether the facts apply to that law.  The jury instructions and applicable law are still paramount.  In jury nullification, the jury still decides the facts, decides the facts do apply to the law, but then decide that the law is unconscionable and therefore issue no sentence.  The fear is that lawyers will not look to the facts at all and instead will rule only on the legal merits, since that is what they are trained to do.

        It also should be mentioned that jury nullification, though often touted as the champion of striking down bad laws, can actually be extremely damaging and is extremely disfavored in legal academia.  There are a lot of theories that jury nullification should not be allowed.  Remember the old pre-desegregation movies where the white man who killed the black man states, “You can’t pin nothing on me.  No jury in their right mind would ever convict me.”?  Jury nullification.  It basically lets the jury prevent finding for what is a factual violation of the law.  The correct solution, law states, is to have the law repealed or overturned.  The problem of whether the legislature actually passes the laws the people wants is a different issue.

        So both are potentially problematic to the mechanism of law, whereby the judge decides the law and issues the law in the form of jury instructions to the jury, and the jury thus decides whether the facts fit the law.  Jury nullification circumvents this process by having the jury decide that although the facts fit, they will not sentence on non-legal grounds.  Lawyers might circumvent the process by ignoring the application of the facts or reinterpreting the law.  They would also likely sway the jury to their favor given their expertise.  Both are problems, but it’s easier to systematically exclude lawyers than it is to systematically exclude jury nullifiers.

  3. I’ve served on juries and, based on my experience, had the judge actually made it onto the jury, everyone would probably have deferred to her opinion during deliberation.

  4. One of the judges where I work was called in for jury duty and ended up on the jury because the two attorneys each thought the other would remove her. She made explicitly it clear to her fellow jurors that she was there doing her civic duty just like them and would not speak to anything outside of the evidence and testimony. A retired FBI agent was also on the panel. It was a drug case. They returned a verdict of not guilty.

    1. I think that the problem would be that the other jurors would just do whatever she did or said rather than evaluate the case on its merits.

  5. I would actually like to serve on a jury – once, anyway, and preferably while I’m unemployed – but I’ve only been called once and I was dismissed without having to even go anywhere when they found out I was a student (I guess). 

    I won’t claim to have much knowledge beyond what I’ve seen in TV and movies and read on the internet, but I also get the sense that my advanced science (i.e. critical thinking) background will essentially always disqualify me as well. I suspect that even if this judge weren’t a judge, and didn’t have any law background, they’d still get disqualified for similar reasons.

    I understand that to perform its function properly the jury really should consist of “average” people, and I suspect I’d be terrible at understanding other factors the jury usually considers (like… human/emotional factors that tend to go over my head), but I still would like the chance to do it. Or maybe I’ve seen 12 Angry Men too many times and wish I were more like Henry Fonda.

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