Trial chicken pawn. That might be a good passphrase, if you subscribe to xkcd’s advice as illustrated in Munroe’s popular “correct horse battery staple” comic. But in this case, it reflects how I spent my day.
By virtue of either having a drivers license or being registered to vote in the county of Ventura, California, I was selected to serve my community by performing jury duty. Along with hundreds of other similarly responsible citizens, I showed up at the Superior Court Hall of Justice this morning and began the great wait. The whiteboard at the head of the waiting hall showed that 102 cases were on the day’s docket for jury trials. Typical, I understand, for a Thursday.
As the very nice judge explained to the crowd this morning, most of us would not see the inside of a courtroom. Of those 102 cases, most would not actually select juries today. Some would be continued, but most would be resolved at the 11th hour. In an elaborate game of legal chicken, one of the parties would decide that they didn’t have the winning hand and would agree to a settlement or plea bargain. Our job, the judge explained, was to be the credible threat. Without the ability to seat a jury, the parties didn’t have to stop negotiating and commit. As a parent, it sounds familiar: “don’t make me come in there.”