In small retail businesses you might occasionally see a sign on the door of a business at lunch time:
Gone for Lunch – Be Back Soon
You are unlikely to get upset when you see the sign and most people will return to the shop at a later time. But in a jury trial things are a little different. Believe it or not, juries apparently expect the lawyer to be present during all the phases of a trial. (Particularly if you are watching boring video-taped depositions with lots of highly technical language that only computer geeks understand).
Anne Reed of Deliberations does a great job of breaking down one of the final events leading up to the Iowa-Microsoft trial settlement. The fact the case settled was not surprising to me at all. There was too much risk on both sides to let the jury make the decision. What surprised me most was this note from a juror to the judge:
"Just wanted you to know that several of the jurors are remarking about the absence of Ms. Conlin during our videotape viewing and that [defense counsel] is here every day. They … think Ms. Conlin is probably taking vacation on those days and we don’t get vacation. And that’s not fair because it’s her fault that we’re here."
As Anne points out in her blog post, the lesson is that a trial lawyer (especially a plaintiff’s trial lawyer) must assume the jurors assume the worst. We will never know whether the jurors would have held it against Conlin and her clients. Of course, she could always take them to dinner to make up for it. Oops, I guess Microsoft already beat her to it.
A thank you dinner for jurors? Now that is something unheard of in Iowa litigation. There is no prohibition against it but the gesture just doesn’t sit right with many Iowa lawyers. I don’t think jurors will actually decide cases based upon who might provide the better meal as one lawyer suggested in the Register article. And lawyers often do speak with jurors after a case to learn about what the jury thought was important and how the jury perceived the lawyers’ presentation or certain evidence. As one Iowa lawyer told me, "I actually think it sounds kind of nice." Of course, she was one of those touchy-feely defense lawyer types.