I was surprised to read in a recent piece in the Times Online that in the UK lawyers are eligible for jury duty. The author, a senior commercial solicitor, gives an interesting picture of how it feels to be a juror in a criminal trial, complaining that much of the explanation given to jurors about their duty is “pitched at a primary school audience.”
If you imagine a class of seven-year-olds being told about an operating theatre (“here are some big knives, and this is where the man called a ‘surgeon’ cuts the patient, then after that they sew him up” etc.), you will get the idea about the quality of the guidance that jurors receive. The result is that the actual information given to jurors is very thin indeed.
The UK Criminal Justice Act 2003 abolished the jury duty exemptions for barristers and solicitors — along with many others.
The author concludes that where there is a lawyer on a jury
you might in effect end up being tried by one lawyer . . . not, in any meaningful sense, a jury trial.
It seems that lawyers in some (or most?) U.S. states are eligible to sit on juries, but there the system of challenges likely results in most of them being rejected by one or other of the parties. In this respect there’s an interesting article [HeinOnline] by a U.S. lawyer describing her experience in being accepted to serve despite her profession.
It seems that “barristers and solicitors” are ineligible for jury duty throughout Canada — though I haven’t looked at the legislation in all provinces — as are, typically, a host of others connected with law or politics. Alberta, for instance, has a long list of ineligible persons:
4 The following persons are excluded from serving as jurors:
(a) members of the Privy Council, the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada;
(b) members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and the Executive Council;
(c) members of the council of a municipality or members of a board of trustees of a school district or school division;
(d) judges of the Provincial Court, justices of the Court of Appeal and Court of Queen’s Bench and justices of the peace, whether retired or not;
(e) barristers and solicitors, whether or not they are practising, and students‑at‑law;
(f) medical examiners under the Fatality Inquiries Act;
(g) officers and employees of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta;
(h) persons who
(i) have been convicted of a criminal offence for which a pardon has not been granted, or
(ii) are currently charged with a criminal offence;
(i) witnesses summoned to attend before the Legislative Assembly or a committee of the Legislative Assembly during the period that their attendance is required;
(j) persons confined in an institution;
(k) persons engaged in the administration of justice, including
(i) members and employees of any police service,
(ii) probation officers,
(iii) employees of the Department of Justice, and
(iv) employees of the Department of Justice of Canada or the Department of the Solicitor General of Canada.
I notice that law librarians are not ineligible and neither are professors of law, law clerks or paralegals.