From today’s Wall Street Journal. Basically this amounts to advice to keep the people described below off of juries by whatever means are available (peremptory challenges, etc.):
‘Personal Responsibility Bias’
We’ve all heard of race bias, gender bias, class bias, sexual orientation bias, et cetera. But maybe only a psychotherapist turned trial lawyer could come up with something called “personal responsibility bias.” Apparently this affliction is especially pronounced among strange people with “traditional family values” and “strong religious beliefs.”
That, at least, is the view offered by David A. Wenner in an $800 handbook offered by the American Trial Lawyers Association. Entitled ATLA’s Litigating Tort Cases, the book is advertised as “essential to every trial lawyer’s library!” As a recent dispatch by CNSNews.com reports, in a chapter on juries Mr. Wenner suggests that Americans with a keen sense of personal responsibility are just not the type of people with whom you want to try to play the “blame game” – especially “if the plaintiff was in the best position to avoid the injury.”
“The personal responsibility juror,” writes Mr. Wenner, who served as co-chair of ATLA’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Juror Bias, “tends to see the world with bright line rules on how people should act… People should be self-reliant, responsible, and self-disciplined. When people act irresponsibly and are not self-disciplined, there are consequences. People must be accountable for their conduct.”
Hmmmmn. Mr. Wenner tells us these passages have been distorted: All he’s trying to do is ensure a fair trial for plaintiffs. But what does it tell you about the current state of our legal system that the same virtues that would be an asset in a friend or spouse or employee are deemed a liability in a jury of one’s peers?
Updated January 12, 2004