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Man on the Go

Grey Uses Presidential Pulpit to Advocate for Measures Bolstering the Jury System

Posted Apr 28, 2005 4:12 AM CDT
By James Podgers

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An ABA president attending the association’s annual or midyear meeting never has to worry about what to do with free time. There is none.

ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr.’s schedule during the association’s 2005 midyear meeting was typical. There was hardly a meeting or hearing or program of any significance during the weeklong gathering in Salt Lake City at which Grey did not make an appearance and of­fer at least brief remarks.

And the message Grey sounded most consistently was the need for the legal profession to support and strengthen the jury as a bulwark of the U.S. justice system.

That has been a primary theme for Grey of Richmond, Va., during his term as ABA president, which ends in Au­gust at the close of the annual meeting in Chicago. But his message was particularly timely in Salt Lake City, where a key element in his efforts to bolster the jury system was on the agenda of the ABA’s policy-making House of Delegates.

There was never really any doubt about whether the ABA Principles Relating to Juries and Jury Trials, developed by the American Jury Project that Grey appointed last year, would pass the House--which they did in a near-unanimous vote. But just to make sure, Grey delivered his final pitch for the jury principles in his presidential address to the House.

The jury, Grey told the House, “is one of the most important democratic institutions ever conceived and is still the bedrock of the justice system” in the United States. By adopting the principles, he said, “We’re going to send a message to every American who serves on a jury: We are your advocates. We are going to make sure you get respect. We will be there for you.”

Easing the Burden

In its report to the house, the American Jury Project said the principles “define our fundamental aspirations for the management of the jury system” while they “provide critical updating and guidance on the procedures relating to jury trials.”

In one key area, the principles urge courts to “vigorously promote juror understanding of the facts and the law” by allowing jurors to take notes during trial and submit written questions for witnesses.

Among other issues, the principles emphasize the importance of ensuring that jury pools represent a community’s general population and of using a selection process that “serves the goal of assembling a fair and impartial jury.” The principles also call for steps to protect juror privacy and policies to facilitate par­ticipation on juries.

In addition to campaigning for adoption of the ABA’s jury principles, Grey observed a Dialogue on the American Jury in which Salt Lake City high school students dis­cus­sed their perceptions about juries with Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine M. Durham and Manuel Sanchez of Chicago, who co-chairs the Commission on the American Jury. Grey appointed the commission last year to conduct public outreach efforts.

On another front, Grey urged bar leaders to participate in advocacy efforts, such as this year’s ABA Day event in Washington, D.C., on April 27-28, to build support for jus­tice programs during the federal government’s current budget process.

“Since we don’t have money, we have to do it with numbers,” Grey told a meeting sponsored by the National Conference of Bar Presidents. “We have to be pre­sent and accounted for on Capitol Hill.”

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