“Please Rise for the Jury.”

Judicial systemI had the honor of serving on a jury for a trial in Seattle Municipal Court. If it had been a state superior court trial I probably wouldn’t have thought it was such an honor, but due to the less egregious nature of the crimes tried in Municipal Court the trial lasted a total of a day and half and a verdict was delivered the next day.

I appreciated many things about being a juror. It was fascinating witnessing the judicial process. I loved watching how the prosecuting and defense attorneys presented their cases and the questions they asked the witnesses. I enjoyed being a part of the deliberations and listening to the different perspectives of the jurors and how they arrived at their verdict. And, lastly, I really loved how everyone is accorded much respect.

In court, everyone is addressed by an honorific and their last names. I don’t think I’ve been called Ms. Clise that many times over my whole life. And, the best part, everyone stood when we jurors entered and left the courtroom. Now that is the way it should be! 

I realized just how informal we West Coasters are. It’s very rare for people to address others by their last name, even people they just met. And, to stand when a person of import enters or exits a room is almost unheard of anymore.

I’m not necessarily advocating that we go back to those days; however, I did enjoy it while in court.

What do you think? Do you think we should be more formal with each other and use an honorific and last name until we know someone well enough to call them by their first name? Should we stand when women or someone important enters or exits the room? Please share your thoughts.

2 thoughts on ““Please Rise for the Jury.”

  1. Didier

    When I started working here in the USA, I discovered calling colleagues and even higher ups on a first name base. I was born and raised in a country where the language has a difference between formal and casual (the “vous” and “tu” in French..), and thus I was raised up with this ingrained approach of adressing people differently according to the situation.

    I remember a case where I was in a newly formed company, and my boss kept the formal level with me, while other of my colleagues were at the casual level with him. They had worked with him in previous enterprises, and I had not, and I felt like an “outsider” because of it.

    I must say that I really appreciated losing that distinction here in the States, as it makes the communication easier, less awkward, and also allows for more natural exchanges of thoughts. Respect needs to be earned, and not generated out of conventional forms of adressing.

    This said, I do believe that in formal occasions, like in a courtroom where you are going to “judge with consequences” another human being, this formal process (including standing up for the judge or the jury) is very appropriate, as it reiterates the importance of what is about to take place. It would lose it’s significance if it was done often in lesser occasions as it would become a rite rather than a true mark of respect.

  2. Arden Clise

    Really great observations Didier. I studied French in school and I know I was always confused about when it was appropriate to use the formal “vous” and the informal “tu”. I can imagine that would be difficult to have to always make that distinction.

    I like how you say “judge with consequences” because you’re right, being a juror is a very important role and formality is appropriate.

    Thank you for your comments.

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