Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jury Duty

I had jury duty yesterday. I spent most of the day sitting around a courtroom to find out whether I would end up on a jury to hear a medical malpractice case. From the brief description of the case given by the judge, it appears that a woman had died of thyroid cancer and her family was suing her general practitioner for not ordering more tests or referring her to a specialist when she reported early symptoms of the problem.

I did not have any obvious disqualifications, such as knowing some of the parties, lawyers, or witnesses involved in the case. So I was called up and sat in the jury box, but that lasted for only about five minutes. Then, apparently, one of the sets of lawyers used a peremptory challenge to kick me. The only information they had about me at the time was based on a brief questionnaire, which did not say much more than my name, address, and occupation.

I wonder: Why does being a professor of economics at Harvard make one an undesirable juror in such a case? And does this say anything about the judicial system or the need for medical malpractice reform? I am not at all sure about the answers, but the experience did raise some intriguing questions.