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Jury Duty

I had to report for jury duty on Monday for the first time in my life.  When I lived in Virginia, lawyers were automatically exempted, at least for part of the time that I lived there, plus I was overseas for much of my career and thus unavailable for jury duty.

I was one of the jurors initially selected for a misdemeanor trial.  The judge and the lawyers asked the potential jurors a number of questions, and my reply to one surprised me.  They asked how much faith we had in the American legal system on a scale from 1 to 10.  I decided on 6, which made me lower than most. I chose such a relatively low number because I am unhappy with the American legal system.

I think that we are approaching a double standard for justice before the law, one for the rich and famous and one for everybody else.  In particular, I’m unhappy that more people have not been brought to trial (and convicted) for the financial shenanigans that produced the banking crisis that created the “Great Recession.”  In addition, insider trading seems to be the rule, rather than the exception, for the rich.  There have been a few trials, but I think it is only the tip of the iceberg.  More and more rich people don’t even trade on the public market; they trade in dark pools, where who knows what they do.  They also come up with complex transactions, often through foreign markets, since much of their money is probably already in overseas tax havens.  Hollywood actors may go to trial, but they seldom get convicted, and if they do, they seldom serve any actual jail time.

In theory the jury system, providing a jury of regular people, should counter this favoritism for the rich and famous, but good, expensive lawyers manage to sway jurors, who may already be overawed by the fame of the people they are judging.

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