By: Joseph Cammarata
Jury Duty is a phrase that a large number of Americans hate to hear. For many, this mandatory public service is a dreaded task that often brings out creativity in people who attempt to avoid serving on a jury in any way possible. Because jury duty is commonly the butt of jokes and viewed as a chore, Americans all too often fail to realize what jury duty means, as well as why it matters. One D.C. native and former public defender turned law professor is trying to change that.
You may have never heard of Andrew Ferguson, but if you've recently attended jury duty in the District of Columbia, there's a good possibility you've seen him. Ferguson, who is a law professor at the University of the District Columbia, is the star of the D.C. Superior Court's new juror orientation video. The 22 minute video – "We the People: A Call to Duty" – takes a different approach to jury duty than most orientation videos; it tries to make people understand why jury duty matters.
Ferguson begins the video by directly addressing the jurors – who are often serving because it's required of them. He notes the virtues of jury duty and the purpose of the American legal system, as well as what to expect during the process of serving on a jury. Ferguson makes it clear that the American legal system is founded on the principle that citizens play a significant role in defining and enforcing laws, holding negligent parties accountable, and working together to promote justice.
He also comments on the fact that a jury is one of the most democratic places in all of D.C. – a place where people from all walks of life can work together as equals, for the same cause and for a common goal. Thomas Jefferson, who supported the idea of keeping power with the people, said that one of the greatest rights we have as Americans is to be able to come together and determine what is right and wrong in the community.
Ferguson's goal when making the video was not only to educate jurors about what to expect or to help them understand why jury duty is fundamental to our country's democracy, but also to help people realize that jury duty can be personally fulfilling.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, our Washington, DC personal injury lawyers are experienced trial lawyers who understand the importance of the legal system and juries. We believe that the jury speaks through a verdict as to what is important to our community. Will we give doctors a pass who misdiagnose patients because they don't take the time to read lab results or pay attention to patient complaints and as a result cause serious harm? Do we allow drivers who needlessly endanger the community when they drive drunk or distracted to not be held accountable for the injuries they cause? There are decisions for a jury to make.
Jurors play an important role in shaping the community we live in and serving on a jury gives you a seat at the table and a voice in answering these types of questions. We believe in the jury system and encourage you to serve.
You can view the new juror orientation video here.