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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 78001 Find in a Library
Title: Questionable Validity of the Automatic Exemption of Attorneys From Jury Service
Journal: University of Richmond Law Review  Volume:14  Issue:4  Dated:(Summer 1980)  Pages:837-849
Author(s): B A Dalvano
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 13
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This comment focuses on why attorneys have traditionally been exempt from jury service in Virginia and whether this exemption violates the fair cross section principle established by the Supreme Court.
Abstract: In January 1980, a bill was proposed in the Virginia General Assembly that would have abolished the automatic and optional exemptions from jury service of persons engaged in certain occupations. However, practicing attorneys, along with several other occupations, remain automatically exempt from jury service. The sixth amendment guarantees an accused in a criminal trial the right to trial by an impartial jury. The present interpretation of 'impartial jury' can be traced primarily to four cases decided by the Supreme Court during the 1940's. It is from these decisions that the fair cross section principle has evolved. In Rawlins v. Georgia (1906) and Taylor v. Louisiana (1975), the Court held that the varying qualities of human nature that are essential to a representative jury would not be undermined by occupational exemptions. However, the purpose of the exemption for attorneys remains unclear. The primary justification, that attorneys perform vital services for the community as do physicians, is not convincing when the variety of sources of legal services is considered. It is also suggested that attorneys may be biased because of their professional relationship with the judicial system, and that they may exert an unusual amount of influence over other jurors. Although the latter argument may be true, the Virginia statutory exemption does not apply to those individuals who are licensed to practice law but are engaged in nonlegal occupations. The partial inclusion of such persons casts doubt upon the rationale of the automatic exemption of Virginia. The article recommends that the legislature reconsider whether the traditional reasons for exempting attorneys from jury service are valid today. The article includes 57 footnotes.
Index Term(s): Attorneys; Juries; Juror characteristics; Jury selection; Right to trial by jury; State laws; Virginia
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