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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Why Jury Duty Matters"

Who says legal scholarship has little practical benefit?  Prof. Andrew G. Ferguson of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) is working to change the perception that the legal academy is out of step with the practice of law and the work of the courts.  He has helped to launch a project of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) called "Getting Scholarship Into Courts," through which a revolving panel of academics (I'm taking a shift) recommend scholarship to NACDL members that might be useful in criminal litigation.  A podcast about that effort is here.  He also has published a book through NYU press called "Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Constitutional Action," which is designed to help the public view jury duty as a an important facet of citizenship, like voting.   Andrew writes, "imagine that instead of considering jury duty an inconvenience, you considered it a day of reflection--a day to reevaluate your role as a constitutional actor."  Written in an accessible style with anecdotes including the story of former Pres. Bill Clinton's jury service, the book covers the history and role of the jury.  Prof. Charles Ogletree of Harvard wrote the introduction.   I think this is a very admirable effort, although I wonder how many prospective jurors will buy the book, giving Andrew the opportunity to sway them.  One possibility is to distribute the paperback through civic organizations like the League of Women Voters.  In any event, kudos to Andrew for his important work and great example in making legal scholarship more relevant.

Posted by GiovannaShay on February 26, 2013 at 08:47 AM | Permalink


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I respect the civic duty aspect but a few years ago, I was told that as contract worker in an agency that I would only get paid for three days. It would have been somewhat of an "inconvenience" if I missed an extended amount of work (and pay) because of a case. If paid, I would find the experience useful. But, for some, it is a hardship.

Posted by: Joe | Feb 26, 2013 5:26:08 PM


Tell Andrew to count me in. I'd love to help. This type of program puts the lie to the very silly notion that scholarship isn't, by and large, useful for practitioners. I can think of very few of those of us in the Criminal Justice Section of AALS who haven't written scholarship that could be of use to practitioners -- see, e.g., Jack Chin's cite by the Supreme Court (both the majority and the dissent!) from a few days ago.

One quibble: some of us have written stuff that could be useful to prosecutors, not just defense counsel. Let's get our stuff in front of them, too.

Posted by: Michael J.Z. Mannheimer | Feb 26, 2013 8:52:38 PM

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