Little white lies — to protect the bar’s image

by Walter Olson on January 5, 2006

The Texas Young Lawyers Association has published one of those “Fact/Fiction” guides to the jury selection process. Among its assertions: “Fiction: Lawyers ask questions designed to figure out who will help reach a verdict in their client’s favor.” And, by contrast, “Fact: The main thing we’re looking for from potential jurors is the ability to be open to both sides of a debate.”

Clay Conrad at JuryGeek (Dec. 18) finds this a good example of “Why People Think Lawyers Are Liars” and explains:

Let me make it clear: any associate with my law firm who looks mainly for jurors to be open to both sides of a debate will be unemployed before Voir Dire is over. We want jurors who will NEVER, EVER under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, WHATEVER THE EVIDENCE consider the other side of the debate. We want jurors who are 100% biased towards our side, 100% hostile to the other side, and if we can get 12 of them, we want them.

We will settle for a fair and impartial jury, as a bare minimum. We assume, and have never seen this assumption proven wrong, that the other side is also seeking jurors who will be committed to their case, and biased against ours. That’s the way the game is played – and shame on TYLA for lying to the public and prospective jurors about it….

Any lawyer who says he wants a fair and impartial jury is either incompetent (being deluded by bar association PR) or is simply lying, lying, lying. The public knows that. I’ve spoken to many high school classes. I ask them what they think a lawyer wants out of a jury, and they tell me a jury that will vote for their client. We know they know. Yet we strangely persist in lying to them when we know we’ll be caught. That’s either insane or stupid.

What is weird is that bar associations lie, to people who they know will KNOW they are lying, in a vain attempt to improve the public image of the bar. What they are in fact doing is proving to the general public that lawyers are liars and manipulators who cannot be trusted – because they lie when, if they gave any thought to it, they’d know they’d be caught by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.