Voboril: Novel means of adjudication
Dexter shuffled restlessly in his seat, a wooden contraption contrived by an Inquisitor or other some such sadist. The jury’s foreman, he was to be its exemplar, a role that he was eminently struggling to play amid the numbing boredom of this specific civic duty.
He, like his compatriots, arrived prepared to play his part in the day’s drama, in the theoretically democratic, allegedly just processes of the legal system. Judging by the rest of the jury’s body language, which ranged from catatonic to openly hostile, their initial intentions were spiraling away with increasing speed.
Collectively called to adjudge the relative merits of the parties’ dispute, the jury would have been perhaps keener if the two litigants were not so equally ludicrous, despicable, and insane. A jilted ex-girlfriend and her deadbeat ex-boyfriend were engaged in petty warfare, not only in the temperament of their thinly-veiled barbs, but in the amount of controversy in the lawsuit.
The plaintiff, having been dumped by a man she finally clocked was a loser, was suing him over damage that he allegedly did to several of her personal effects. His counterclaim for his own perceived injuries was in a comically inflated amount, jurisdictional hijinks that forced the case before an actual real-life jury, instead of before the small claims court or some trashy daytime judge show.
These two characters had no peers, creating a bit of a conundrum from a constitutional standpoint. And yet the law still mandated Dexter to miss his son’s baseball tournament, Shirley to jones for her soaps and her cat, Bruce to pretend to have something important to do, and the rest to put their lives on hold, all to listen to the lunatic ravings of two sleazeballs. In what must have been some sort of record, everyone in the courtroom would have preferred the presence of lawyers, but the parties were far too cheap and stubborn to hire them. The jury members were not so silently cursing their decisions to take the high road and not lie to get out of serving. Curtis had been looking forward to this, an inclination that now made him question his sanity.
Each expected the judge to interject at any moment, box the parties about the ears, order the bailiff to defenestrate them, and allow everyone to go home. With each passing second, the fact that this had not come to pass seemed like a violation of judicial ethics.
And yet, the judge remained impassive, which would have been impressive if it wasn’t so maddening. There were suspicions voiced that the judge was asleep, dead drunk, or just dead, but all theories were eventually rescinded when he mercifully called for a brief recess.
Congregating in the jury deliberation room after using their respective toilets, the members milled about, agitated. In the haze created by the sheer stupidity of the parties’ testimony, Dexter had pontificated about what he, as the appointed leader of the adjudicating body, could do to expedite the madness. Sure, a jury member could do something to purposefully have a mistrial declared, but that only kicked the can down the road. Dexter was too compassionate to subject another set of his fellow citizens to this drivel.
The solution at which he arrived was surely unorthodox. But, he had done some rough calculations, formed some largely uninformed suppositions, and was, above all, desperate. He knew that his comrades felt the same. So Dexter cleared his throat and announced his proposition to those gathered. Betsy gasped, Clinton chuckled, Bruce just gaped. Intense debate ensued, some mild haranguing occurred, but the more that they all considered Dexter’s idea, the more that they believed that he was perhaps so crazy as to be genius.
As the jury members rose upon the judge’s reassumption of the bench, Dexter waved to the judge, inquiring whether he could make a statement to the court. The judge, still placid, but also curious, allowed Dexter to speak.
Dexter took a deep breath and said, “Your Honor, without delving into too many details of why this trial is an unfortunate spectacle, many of which are already self-evident, I am authorized to speak on behalf of my fellow jury members and make the following offer. We, as the jury, will agree to pay each party $1,000 if they will kindly immediately cease talking, drop their suits and countersuits, and end this ridiculousness.”
The judge gazed down at Dexter with a look of sheer delight, a reaction that surprised the assembly almost as much as his statement.
“Mr. Foreman, I knew that I sensed something special about you this morning. I had long been wondering if anyone would have the stones to call these morons out on their shenanigans.”
The litigants rose to speak in protest, but one sharp look from the judge made them realize that he knew just as well as they did that they were going to take the deal. The judge’s blatant lack of impartiality and decorum was a moot point in the face of greed.
Dexter left the courthouse pleased and not a little more jaded: It’s hard to have a miscarriage of justice when the concept exists only in textbooks and treatises.
T.J. Voboril is a founding partner at Alpenglow Law, LLC, a local law firm, and the Owner/Mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, please contact him at 970-306-6456, email@example.com, or visit AlpenGlowlaw.com.