In ninth grade, we had career day where students picked three different professions they want to learn about. I picked lawyer, judge, but I don’t recall the third. In the sessions, I sat in a classroom and listened to a lawyer and the judge explain their day-to-day life and what it took for them to attain their goals.
My ninth-grade-self was sold. I had my mind set on first becoming a lawyer, then I’d move on to become a judge. For a reason I still cannot pinpoint, I was drawn to the law. I suppose part of me still is. As a teenager, I started reading John Grisham’s books. He was kind of a role model for me. I now realize that is straight-up peculiar.
But when it was time to declare a major in college, I didn’t pick Pre-Law, Political Science, or even Journalism. Somewhere between ninth grade and my senior year, I decided practicing law wouldn’t be my future. Yet I let my fascination spark on as a hobby. I continued to read novels about lawyers and judges, but most of my consumption of trials, courts, and lawyers’ lives was done in front of the TV. That was easy enough when I could turn on the TV at any time of day and catch at least one episode of Law & Order or some suspenseful crime drama. Speaking of which, about a year ago, I banned myself from watching the show CriminalMinds. I was watching A LOT of it and convinced myself it was a healthy practice that would help me discern criminals. I had to stop when I found myself staring at people and wondering how many bodies they had buried in their basement.
Although I never pursued a career in law, I am fairly sure I would have made a fantastic lawyer and/or judge. I killed it in mock court. How different can the real thing be?! I would have loved the chance to pull a Tom Cruise a la A Few Good Men and bring down a huge fish like Jack Nicholson. And while I’m on the subject, let me be clear about this: A Few Good Men is one of the best movies ever made, practically flawless.
Thankfully, in my youth, the closest I came to a judge was appearing in traffic court a couple of times due to a few traffic accidents and a speeding ticket or two. Still, my thirst for court drama wasn’t contained. Since I decided I wouldn’t become a lawyer or judge, the next best thing was becoming a juror. I badly wanted to serve on a jury…again, this may have been a result of John Grisham novels. When I was 21, I finally got paperwork in the mail summoning me for my civic duty to serve as a juror. I was ecstatic…until I realized I would be studying abroad on the date I was asked to appear in court. I was devastated. I called the person in charge, apologized profusely, and begged him to not let my inability to serve affect getting called again. He thought I was nuts.
A few years ago I got my second chance. I was summoned for jury duty in NYC – how cool is that?! Of course I pretended to be put out to my boss since I’d have to miss work. I practically skipped to court the first day. I got picked for a case right away, but little did I know being called for jury duty translates to sitting around for a long time. The lawyers had to vet the list of names first. In a very weird turn of events, I ended up having brunch with a fellow juror who up until we walked to the diner together, was a complete stranger. We tried to guess what we were in for and whether we’d get picked. What I had already figured out was that none of this was as sexy as TV made it out to be. A few hours later, I sat through the lawyers’ interview process, but since I was in the back of the room, only alternate positions were available by the time they reached me. I had no interest in becoming an alternate. Who wants to play second fiddle in ANY occasion? I tried to get kicked off by telling the lawyers I couldn’t be objective. They told us the case was a malpractice case against a doctor, so I told them I don’t trust doctors. Nothing I said fazed them! They wouldn’t relent, and picked me anyway.
I spent the following five days serving as an alternate juror in a freezing courtroom. (Let me just state that our judge gave us permission to discuss the case with outside parties after the trial was over, so I am not giving you Secret Service details here.) I was fascinated by the whole process, but the most interesting part to me was the cross examinations by the lawyers. Typically, one lawyer was nice while the other was an overdramatic jerk. I listened to every detail while watching the plaintiff and the defendant’s reactions. Since I knew my opinion and vote wouldn’t count, I went out of my way to react dramatically to details during testimony. They were putting on a show for me; I wanted to repay the favor.
I was surprised they only used six jurors, not twelve. Law & Order has been lying to us for the past ninety-six years. The judge didn’t seem very authoritative, and I was much more in awe of the honor of her job than she was. But the biggest surprise of all was the jurors. Since I was an alternate, I wasn’t allowed to be in the room with the “chosen” during deliberations. I was dismissed for the day, but I stayed around because I wanted to know how they voted. In my opinion, what happened to the plaintiff was unfortunate, but it wasn’t the doctor’s fault. Unfortunately for the doctor, his lawyer came across as a cheesy villain. My fellow jurors voted against the doctor who was being sued by the patient. They voted with their hearts, not with logic. The doctor put them off because he’s rich and his lawyer was mean. They figured the doctor has money to spare. What they didn’t realize is their vote would drive the doctor’s malpractice insurance premiums through the roof.
When the verdict was called, I was sitting in the audience seats. The doctor was so astonished that he turned to me and gave me a look that said, “Can you believe this?” His lawyers had asked me in the hall prior to the verdict being read whom I would have voted for. This is legal by the way. I’m sure they wished I were one of the six who determined the doctor’s fate, but the moment the verdict was read, I was happy I was just an alternate. Common sense and fairness weren’t a factor for my fellow jurors. They told me later they voted quickly because they wanted to go home, and they voted by sympathy, not logic.
I don’t have much faith in our legal system any more, so for now, I prefer to get my fake law fix instead. My current obsession is the show Suits. Fictional law and cute guys…what more can a girl like me want?