Behind Closed Doors

“Only lawyers and mental defectives are automatically exempt for jury duty.” —George Bernard Shaw

I enjoy that quote because it’s so true! Lawyers can’t be on a Jury but the rest of Ontarians have few excuses to refuse to serve. Once again the Ontario Government is looking at whether or not Civil Trials should include Juries. A Jury is supposed to be made up of your peers from your community.

Originally the Jury was made up of the witnesses who would hear what they each had to contribute to the evidence and then reach a consensus. So the Jury members were from your community and they usually knew you and the party you were suing. Their subjective and personal knowledge was freely utilized.

Over time Juries became drawn from the community at large and were expected to be objective so witnesses gave evidence before the Jury and they reached an independent decision. The problem with Juries now is that there are so many rules of evidence that exclude relevant information that the Juries are making decisions in the dark.

In my opinion the worst twisting of reality comes from the inability to tell the Jury whether or not the defendant has insurance. The theory is that if a Jury knows there is insurance they will grant higher awards to the Plaintiff. That’s a gift to the defence insurance company. Clearly that conflicts with the mandatory laws that require insurance and leaves the Jury confused. If they can be trusted to make final decisions in complicated litigation why can’t they be trusted to assess the case regardless of whether or not there is insurance?

I would love to know what Juries discuss behind those closed doors! Instead of relying on the fact that Jurors seem to like my Courtroom style it would be much more comforting to know what the Jurors thought of the evidence, my clients, my opponents and the process. Frustratingly I am not allowed to ask them unless they approach me first. They are usually long gone from the Court house by the time I am free to leave the Court room! So if you ever get the chance to give me the inside scoop please do.

Until next time,