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Appreciate the Privilege of Jury Service

It stressed me out at first to think of up to two weeks without my Blackberry or laptop during what we still call “regular business hours” even when most of us rarely work anything close to what used to be the norm. Then, I decided to plan appropriately for my exile and embrace the opportunities to learn.

I arrived at the courthouse with ease before 8:20 AM. I proceeded through security without any delays and was enamored with the beauty of the well-maintained building. The white marble that lines the walls in the hallways was clean and flawless. It felt important to be in such a dignified setting.

The juror assembly room was equally beautiful and comfortable, unlike the room in state court. There are no wooden benches or chairs here. The workers were kind and professional, efficient and effective. I felt that my service was appreciated. This is what I expected “real court” to be like when I was in law school. I imagined people would be as grateful for their opportunities as I was of mine. I was shocked to see the chaos the first time I went into the local courts, where everyone seems to be treated like a criminal–or at least an annoyance–to the security officers and court personnel. It was encouraging to see that other courts take pride in the process.

Having never left the jury assembly room, I wonder if the Justices will be as professional as the court personnel has been so far. Since I’ve been practicing, I’ve seen judges convicted for bribery, and I’ve heard administrative judges complain about having to preside over trials. (Did no one tell them that’s what judges do?) Much to my surprise, I’ve experienced ethnic jokes, sexual harassment, rudeness, unfairness, and bias from the very people we look to for impartiality and higher levels of maturity than we achieve.

I hope it will be different here. So often, the legal professionals forget how important the cases are to the parties involved and what will be affected by the outcomes. This is not “just a job” to them. They are probably nervous and under a great deal of stress, regardless of how heavily the evidence weighs in their favor. Their stress is likely worse than that of the most stressed lawyer, judge, court reporter, or clerk. We can make it a little easier on them simply by being polite and professional. I suspect this will also help us get more accurate evidence and better resolve the disputes.

Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a mediator, and conflict resolution coach based in New York City, where she works with creative professionals, entrepreneurs, human resources professionals, labor managers, risk managers, and executives to generate results beyond the boundaries of their imaginations. She is committed to creating a unified human race by empowering people to have lives they forgot were possible.