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Lessons from the Bench

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When the mail brought a notice alerting me that I was chosen to show up to the courthouse and possibly participate in a jury, I did what many have done – tried to think of ways to get out of it. However, whether it was a sense of civic pride, obligation, commitment, or just that I really did not have a legimate excuse (after all; everyone believes that they are just too busy, too important at work, or above the need to serve), I showed up along with many other sleepy, somewhat surly, and impatient people to serve on juries.

Business owners can learn from how judges conduct courtroom business.

Jury Selection

The first lesson was during the process of jury selection when the process of “voire dire” occurs and potential jurors have the steps of jury selection explained, expectations are managed, other members of the process are introduced and the rules of engagement is covered.

Further, the delegation of who is selected to be on a jury is left to the attorneys, not the judge.  The process forces the “leader” or “CEO” of the court to give up some control so that the process can succeed without undue influence from a single person.  Even if that person is likely to have more experience, formal training, or familiarity with the process; a strength of the courts is that people of varying backgrounds and experiences come together to collaborate to reach a binding decision.

Trial Management

In the actual conducting of the trial, it is not the judge who examines or cross-examines the witnesses (or determines who shall be a witness and who shall not be called upon to testify), but the attorneys.  The process could go much more quickly if the judge were to select who to hear from, what testimony to review, and what power to give to any one particular fact.  However, the process only asks that the judge ensure that the other parties (attorneys, witnesses, and jurors) are held accountable to upholding the requirements of protocol.  The judge does not permit evidence or testimony to be entered if it is not appropriate, the judge makes sure that there is no unfair advantage offered to one side outside the law to be followed, and maintains decorum in the courtroom.  CEO’s could take note of how the judge des not exert undue influence on the other members of the process, but does not abdicate responsibility for ensuring that the result is reached through the appropriate means and after rigorous review of facts.

Trial Conclusion

The judge provides one last context for assessing how the jury should gauge guilt.  While there is much presented in the course of a court trial, at the conclusion the judge re-reads the charges and provides interpretations of the law so that the jury is confident in their ability to reach a decision successfully.  Then, it is up to the jury to decide based on their understanding of the law, the testimony, perceptions of the truthfulness, reasonableness of witnesses, etc.  In this way, the judge ensures that the objectives of the trial are maintained and that jurors have the resources needed to make an informed decision.

Similarly, CEOs can replicate the process used by being diligent about achieving objectives, without specifying what the outcome must be ahead of time.  The jury is empowered to make the decision, and the judge’s role is to help the jury achieve the result or decision.

While business lessons are not commonly pursued inside courts and jury trials – the insights are abundant and are evident if one looks for them.

Categories: General
David Zahn

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