Topic: Professions & Institutions

Revolting Development: Juror Notes Auction
(4/19/2006)

The professional ethics rules for lawyers forbid them to make book deals regarding current cases they are litigating. Good rule: lawyers are duty-bound to make decisions based on what is best for their clients, not what will make the most riveting made-for-TV movie. That ol' debbil First Amendment stops the profession from banning lawyers from writing post-case books, so the temptation to represent a client with one eye on possible royalties is still there. Now thanks to EBay and the increasing tendency of American to reduce absolutely everything to dollars and cents we have a related revolting development: a juror in a high-profile case attempting to auction off her notes on-line:

"These are in good condition. I was alternate # 2 in the Michael Jackson Trial. I sat in the jury box for the duration of the trial. I have my original notes and badge and official certificate that says juror # 207 in the Michael Joe Jackson Trial signed by Judge Melville."

That's just dandy. Now jurors will regard their notes as potential cash cows, and make sure to fill them with juicy stuff to entice bidders instead of using them for the purpose for which they are intended---to help them make the right decision on the case. Until this enterprising citizen came up with the idea of selling them, the creation of juror notes did not present an inherent conflict of interest, but that blissful time is about to end. If the states are alert, they should pass a law making all juror notes the property of the court…not a bad idea anyway. Here is a rare opportunity to prevent the temptation to be unethical before anyone has yielded to it.

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