I love my job as a lawyer. One of my only regrets about the job is that I’ll never get to serve on a jury. That might sound like a crazy thought. Many people dread getting summonsed for jury duty because it is inconvenient and can be a financial burden (you don’t get paid for the first 10 days and only get $40 a day after that). However, juries are a crucial part of our justice system and serving on one can be extraordinarily interesting.
If you are summonsed for jury duty the first step is going to Court on the day stated on the notice. Jury selection then begins. People with legitimate reasons for not serving on the jury may be excused by the presiding Judge. A case will then be called and a court official picks names from a drum.
If your name is picked from the drum you are ushered up to the jury box. Unlike the American system, lawyers do not ask questions of potential jurors in Ontario. The only information provided to the lawyers about a potential juror is his or her name, age and occupation. In civil (non-criminal) cases a jury consists of six people. Each party to the lawsuit can “challenge” four jurors. When a juror is challenged, he or she is taken off the jury panel.
Once the jury is chosen and the case begins the jurors are the key decision makers. The Judge will make rulings about evidence and provide instructions on the law. However, the jury decides the case.
I am always astonished at the dedication, hard work and wisdom of people on juries. It is impressive to see members of our community sit and attentively listen to evidence. At the end of a trial, the jury decision is usually fair and just.