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August 28, 2023

Interesting survey findings on jury service and trust in legal actors and institutions

As discussed in this new New York Times piece, a new study conducted in July by the polling firm Ipsos has a lot of interesting new findings not only about Americans generally are viewing various legal actors, but also on the views of those who have served as jurors.  This Ispos press release reports on the basics:

A new survey conducted by Ipsos shows that Americans are generally not familiar with the legal system. Americans who have served on juries are more likely to be familiar with the legal system and trust in the institution and the people who serve in it is higher among those who have served as jurors. The survey shows that one in ten Americans have served on a jury in the last 10 years and about one in three have been summoned for jury service but did not serve. 

This Ipsos pdf has 30 pages of findings that, I suspect, many lawyers and other readers of this blog might find very interesting. Indeed, I would be grateful for any folks inclined to use the comments to flag which particular results — on questions asking about, eg, who may "get special breaks, or get given a harder time" in the justice system" or being interested "in serving on the jury in one of the cases against Donald Trump" — they found especially interesting or surprising.

Unsurprisingly, the New York Times piece about this survey is mostly focus on Trumpian trials and tribulations under the headline "Americans Still Put Their Trust in Juries. Will Trump’s Trials Break That Faith?".  And this poll was likely done only because we now face the prospect of one or more jury trials of a former President.  Still, I think there are much broader stories and lessons in this survey, and it certainly serves to reinforce my affinity for juries and jury service more generally.

August 28, 2023 at 12:22 PM | Permalink



Interesting. Probably only for practice nerds.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 28, 2023 2:51:45 PM

"Nearly 60 percent of Americans say they have at least a fair amount of trust in juries, according to a new survey — higher than for any other group in the judicial system."

Now let's see. Do juries overwhelmingly convict, or overwhelmingly acquit, criminal defendants?

Very good! The great majority of the time, they convict. So it would seem the Americans trust the institution that sees through defense counsel's phony stories and gets it that the defendant did what the prosecutor charged him with doing.

Goodness gracious!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2023 4:17:06 PM

One other point:

When people who had served on juries were asked about trust in local police and law enforcement, 75% got a positive grade, compared to 70% for prosecutors and a woeful 62% for defense attorneys.

Well, maybe if defense attorneys weren't so slippery.........

Oh, sorry, that was just a flight of fancy. I need to get a grip.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2023 4:26:08 PM

I find it interesting that, allowed to list their top three important issues, rather than just one -- the following criminal justice (or criminal justice adjacent) issues ranked near the top in a way that should concern partisans on both sides:
#2 -- Gun Violence (34%)
#3 -- Political Extremism (22%)
#4 -- Immigration (21%)
#6 (tied with 2 others) -- Crime (18%)
#9 -- Racism (14%)

I would also note that jury service appears to bolster the positive ratings of all groups connected with the jury system -- judges, law enforcement, and attorneys (of all types). However, jurors seem to, even more than the general population, perceive the legal system as favoring the wealthy, white collar defendants, corporations, and former elected officials. You have mixed results with the percentage of those seeing the treatment of African-Americans as both being treated fairly and treated more harshly than others increasing after jury service.

Posted by: tmm | Aug 28, 2023 5:25:59 PM

tmm --

On the (correct) theory that "gun violence" is liberalspeak for armed robbery, aggravated assault and murder, I regard it as a good thing indeed that it ranks so high on the list. Americans are not as asleep as Biden would like them to be.

Also, your observation that "jury service appears to bolster the positive ratings of all groups connected with the jury system -- judges, law enforcement, and attorneys (of all types)" is heartening. Academics who spend their time in the faculty lounge and don't want to dirty themselves with seeing how the system actually works tend to be highly critical of it. Perhaps if they got out into the world they would be less down on it and admit that, for by far the most part, defense lawyers aren't drunks, prosecutors aren't thugs, and judges aren't just running for higher office.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 28, 2023 6:14:15 PM

Mr. Otis, you concern about "slippery" defense attorneys is no doubt matched by your concern with unethical prosecutors. Unethical conduct is wrong no matter who engages in it. In any event, I'm sure you will agree that the duty to zealously defend a client is a fundamental aspect of the legal profession, ensuring that the adversarial system functions properly and that individuals have access to a fair trial regardless of the charges they face.

Posted by: anon12 | Aug 29, 2023 11:24:25 AM

Bill, as you know, gun violence is also liberal speak for the fact that we have too much gun crime because we have too many guns on the street that are far more effective than any weapon that was available in 1789. So I would say it also means that Americans are not as asleep as Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell and the folks at the NRA think they are. Both parties do a substandard job of addressing gun violence with the Republicans unwilling to do enough to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and Democrats unwilling to do enough to punish the most violent offenders.

Posted by: tmm | Aug 29, 2023 11:48:26 AM

"Both parties do a substandard job of addressing gun violence with the Republicans unwilling to do enough to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and Democrats unwilling to do enough to punish the most violent offenders."

The hackneyed "pox on both parties" argument. So tired. What is "doing enough" to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? You mean like Hunter Biden? LOL. The GOP supports laws that bar criminals from having guns, and generally law and order GOP prosecutors enforce gun laws. What else would you want?

Posted by: federalist | Aug 29, 2023 12:10:00 PM

anon 12 --

All a bunch of standard bromides, not one of which answers the question why jurors are so much more trusting of police and prosecutors than of defense lawyers. Maybe it's because jurors can spot a fancy dance when they see one and don't like it so much, ya think?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2023 1:25:16 PM

tmm --

Roughly 99% of the guns out there are never used to shoot anyone. When in the very rare instance a gun is misused to commit crime, the problem is not the gun but the guy using it.

Assuming as you say that there are too many guns out there, I have to smile at the defense bar's effort to get yet more out there in the hands, not of your average Joe, but of previously convicted felons (who they like to pretend are all Martha Stewart). If we need to cut down on the number of guns on the street, surely the place to start is by limiting gun access by people who have already shown that they're not exactly wedded to living a law-abiding life.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 29, 2023 1:33:09 PM

hey tmm, your "both sides" nonsense is shown to be such by this: https://hotair.com/jazz-shaw/2023/08/30/cbps-refusal-to-collect-dna-from-illegals-has-cost-lives-n574662

And the retaliation against whistleblowers--people need to go to prison.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2023 9:34:26 AM

Federalist, I understand your point of view.

From my point of view, I can assure you that there are lots of things that prosecutors and police in this country would like to do to cut down on gun violence that is being blocked by Republicans in Congress and our state legislatures. (In my state, the Republican governor just told our -- officially non-partisan but perceived as Democrat -- Mayor to "stay in his lane" when the mayor is trying to propose some local ordinances restricting guns.) We can agree to disagree if the opposition to such additional restrictions is correct.

But, to the initial point that I was making, I don't think that anybody can say that the voters who say gun violence is a significant issue are merely complaining about the lack of enforcement of current laws. They are also wanting stricter laws regulating guns. The voters are saying a pox on both your houses. Pretending that they are not or arguing that the voters do not understand the problem is simply sticking one's head in the sand. (And claiming that voters do not really understand the problem can be said about almost every issue on that list. In a democracy, voters get to be wrong.)

Posted by: tmm | Aug 30, 2023 11:10:06 AM

So, tmmm, what would you like to do to keep guns out of the hands of criminals? And let's not forget the whole due process thing. Voters get to be wrong, but you yourself are making the pox on your houses argument. The constitution has to be respected.

Posted by: federalist | Aug 30, 2023 12:54:02 PM

While the Constitution has to be respected, what lawyers and the courts interpret the Constitution as meaning and what the Framers thought that it meant (Or what the plain language says may not matter that much to the public perception what the public wants done (and thinks can be done).

And, while I certainly have opinions about some things that I think could constitutionally be done, my comments in this thread are directed toward public perception of gun violence as the topic of this thread is what polls are saying about the public perception of the justice system. And I am saying that the polls are reflecting a "pox on both your houses" attitude by many voters. For the purpose of the significance of the poll and why the concern about gun violence cuts both ways politically, the public thinks that more laws are needed to keep guns out of the hands of violent individuals, and the ideas that get decent support in the polls are well known: 1) get rid of the gun show exemption to background checks; 2) red flag laws; and 3) restrictions on magazine capacity. There are some other ideas that poll well, but my interpretation of them is that they actually mostly reflect current law and the problem is more an administrative one (e.g., connecting probate court records relate to mental health to the background check system.) ON all of these ideas, there is the public perception that it is the Republicans blocking progress toward a solution (perhaps because the polls show that these ideas are very popular with Democrats and Independents but Republican voters tend to be more evenly divided on them).

Posted by: tmm | Aug 30, 2023 1:45:46 PM

red flag laws--maybe, but they need to have strict due process protections, else, cops just show up at your door unannounced and take your guns . . . .

Re: gun show exemption, well gee, you going to say that individuals don't get to sell their guns? With the ATF going after federal licensees . . . .

when you give 'rats an inch, they take a mile./

Posted by: federalist | Aug 31, 2023 1:40:00 PM

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