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Is hands-off parenting
a good thing?
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received by August 18, 2015.
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Clay S. Conrad is an author and attorney with Looney & Conrad P.C.
A KEY COMPLAINT in
the Declaration of
Independence was that
the British had deprived
colonists of trial by jury.
Juries were seen as the
bulwark of liberty,
empowered to thwart
government oppression. Thomas Jefferson, in a
letter to Thomas Paine, stated, “I consider trial
by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by
man, by which a government can be held to the
principles of its constitution.”
Trial by jury is the only right guaranteed in
the Constitution three times. Colonial juries
repeatedly rejected laws they found unjust,
quashing British ambitions and establishing
Colonial independence. That is the jury the
founders knew, and what they intended to
bequeath to future generations.
The founders would scoff at plans for juries
of government employees: The minute a body of
individuals becomes professionals, they cease to
be a jury. A jury of bureaucrats was not what the
founders fought for.
Professional “jurors” would become jaded,
and we would lose the protection that comes
from having fresh, unjaundiced eyes examine
Writer G.K. Chesterton noted in a 1909
essay “The Twelve Men”: “And the horrible thing
about all legal officials, even the best, about all
judges, magistrates, barristers, detectives, and
policemen, is not that they are wicked (some of
them are good), not that they are stupid (several
of them are quite intelligent), it is simply that
they have got used to it.”
The argument is made that citizen jurors are
not smart or educated enough to understand the
issues in complex cases. That is absurd: Good
lawyers, and good experts, can explain the most
complex issues to an average juror. We should
not reform—or deform—the jury to make room
for bad lawyering. Lawyers who cannot commu-
nicate their case to citizen jurors have no busi-
ness in court, and scapegoating the jury for their
inability is simply sour grapes.
The professional “jury” is a pipe dream of
unaccountable academics who would like to see
“We, the People” as lab rats in their experiments.
There would be profound consequences to any
attempt to institute professional “juries.” Even if
a state attempted to do so, it would inevitably be
A professional “jury” is a contradiction in
terms. The cardinal feature of jurors is that they
are amateurs. Unlike professionals, amateur
jurors are beholden to no one, obligated only to
their own conscience and commitment to justice. You’ll never get that from a bureaucrat. C
Michael Tabman is a retired FBI special agent in charge, a former
police officer and author of several books ( michaeltabman.com).
BEING A JUROR and
deciding the future, perhaps between life and
death, of another human
being can be an overwhelming responsibility.
Understanding the law is
difficult. Applying complex legal processes is not easily learned on the
job, nor is understanding the legal maneuvering, game playing and theatrics that occur in
these trials. Those of us in law enforcement
have no patience, no compassion and no appreciation for jury members, who, in the course of
doing their duty, do not make, to our minds,
the right decision.
We must respect the jury and be grateful
that the accused had their day in court. But
maybe it is time to consider that the average citizen who is chosen to sit on a jury is not necessarily qualified to do so. Reasonable doubt,
circumstantial evidence, mode of death versus
cause of death and a multitude of other legal
definitions and concepts require formal education, like that provided in law school. A few minutes of instruction from a judge does not suffice.
What if this country had professional
jurors trained in all aspects of the system? A
firm grasp of the legal definitions, standards
and concepts to which they will be exposed
equips jurors to make a fair and legal decision.
What are the arguments against a professional jury system? One is that a professional
jury is not a jury of one’s peers. But formal training for average citizens does not disqualify them
as a jury of one’s peers.
Another argument is that jurors who are
paid by the state have a conflict of interest; state
employees would be biased in favor of the state.
But that’s not necessarily true: Judges are paid
by the state, and they do not (or should not)
have a bias. Judges often rule against the state.
Public defenders are paid with state funds, yet
their job is to defend their appointed client, as
any attorney should.
A professional jury, knowledgeable in the
law, exposed to a variety of trials and legal strategies, is less likely to get distracted by irrelevant or
prejudicial information and would render fair
decisions for both criminal and civil trials.
Professional jurors would also alleviate the time
and expense associated with calling people for
jury duty. Jobs would be created.
Police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges all go through extensive training
before they are allowed to act officially and affect
defendants’ life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
Why shouldn’t juries? C
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