A few weeks ago I was called to jury duty at the District’s Superior Court for petit jury duty. When I went down and was going through the jury selection process the judge asked me if there were any non-case related reasons why I felt I shouldn’t serve on the jury for a minor civil case. I told the judge that I didn’t respect the authority of the District’s Superior Court because judges were appointed by the President and approved by the US Senate where we have no representation. I also explained that the Judicial Nominations Commission, in my opinion, is a violation of core democratic principles and infringes on our rights as District citizens to have or local officials nominate and approve local judges. The Home Rule Act should have allowed the mayor to nominate and the council to approve (or disapprove) judges not a committe of unelected officials appointed to their positions by the DC Bar, the President, the Mayor, the Council Chair, and I believe a few others.
After explaining the reason why I felt I shouldn’t serve the judge winked at me and said “a lot of us feel like our status is unjust. Having said that do you believe your strong feelings would prevent you from being able to fairly serve on a jury to judge a case involving your fellow citizens.” My answer was no and I told the judge that if I was a purist I never would have even shown up for jury duty. Although I don’t respect the authority of the court (nothing against the judge) I do believe in the trial by jury system and ultimately we in the jury made the decision in the case not the judge whose authority I questioned.
The judicial system in the District is contrary in many ways to what our founders set up and what states have going all across the country but the one thing the system does have is the adherence to the belief in a trial by a jury of your peers. Our system is bad but at least we’re not being judged by folks from other states…at least not yet.