Saturday, November 12, 2005

Verdict

"Why do I do this for a living?"

It is a ritual of mine, when waiting for a verdict from a jury, to avoid eye contact with the jury when it enters the room after deliberations. Instead, I hold my pen dangling over the verdict form, a pendulum swinging between my client's name and the name of the other party, like a sword pointed at my ego.

Time slows as the jury files in from its deliberations, but the mind cannot help but race: "what will I say to the client if we lose?";"why did I keep juror number 5 on the jury?"; " why was he scowling at me during my closing my remarks?" But the thought that races the fastest is always: "why in the hell do I do this for living?"

A tired mind races faster than a clear mind, and, at the end of a trial, my mind is oatmeal, and tired oatmeal at that.

The judge states majestically, "Madam Foreman, has the jury reached a verdict?" The mind slows down just abit, allowing just a glimmer of hope to set in: "she's who I hoped would take charge".

"We have, your honor," she says.

I still cannot bear to look. I instead stare at the sword between my fingers, pointing just a notch toward the name of my client.

The clerk walks over to receive the verdict, and hands it to the judge for his initial review. Now I sneak a look for an important clue-- if the judge reads the verdict quickly, chances are we have won. If he ponders over the form, bad news is on the way. "The clerk will publish the verdict," the judge declares. The clerk proceeds to read the verdict in the firm voice of somebody who knows that his words are the sound of justice, at least in this courtroom, at least for these parties, at least on this day.

I twirl the sword back and forth as the clerk reads the verdict, and I mark the line next to my client's name. I breathe once again and steal a look at the jurors. They are already filing out of the room. They have done their duty. They want to go home. They did not like the plaintiff.

I put down my pen and shake my client's hand. The thought of doing something else for a living retreats to more friendly terrain, toward the back of my mind. There it will regroup, lick its wounds, and wait, perhaps, to fight another day.