The ABA is having its annual meeting in Atlanta and the incoming president Robert Grey has a bold proposal: Let’s revamp the jury trial.
“We’re dragging the jury trial kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” said Patricia Lee Refo, the project’s chair, the outgoing chair of the ABA Section of Litigation and a partner in the Phoenix office of Snell & Wilmer. “The idea is to take everything we know today about how people learn and process information, and apply it to the jury trial,” Refo said. “There are still courtrooms in this country, for example, that don’t let jurors take notes. Why in the world would we do that? None of us would listen to something of critical importance for days at a time without taking notes.
I’m sure that there will be people who criticize this initiative as not being bold enough. But I applaud the ABA for this proposal. It’s an important first step. Our legal system can be improved if we are willing to take a fresh look at the whole system. The hard part, of course, is convincing lawyers (who are conservative by nature and therefore resistant to change) that the proposed changes should actually be adopted.