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  • Texas | Columns | They Shoe Horses, Don't They?

    The Jury Box

    by Bruce Martin

    Like everyone else, I took the mandatory Civics class in high school to learn basic fundamentals of citizenship and operations of government, local and federal. Rights of individuals was stressed in the study of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. From a practical standpoint, day-to-day application seems to be based on circumstances and experiences encountered.

    My first such experience as one called for civic duty as a jurist was an eye-opener. Until then, my only exposure to courtroom procedures and drama was the Perry Mason television series.

    I received the mail notification to appear for jury duty in the Harris County Civil Court jurisdiction and complied. Jury duty was a full week commitment, whether selected for a jury or not. A couple of hundred appeared on that Monday morning and waited for our number to be called for interviewing by the designated attorneys for the cases on the docket. A group would be called, questions asked individually, and the attorneys would make a selection of twelve jurors and two alternates. It was not clear to me how they made their determinations of who would, and who would not, be selected.

    Late in the afternoon on Monday, I went through that process and was selected to a jury to start on Tuesday morning. We arrived, received the routine instructions from the bench, and listened to opening remarks of the plaintiff and defense attorneys. Our particular case was to hear charges against an individual who allegedly had produced and sold a coating material that was patented by another company.

    Part of Tuesday and all day Wednesday and Thursday we heard questions, answers, and testimonies pertaining to the ingredients of the product, the relative amounts of each component, specifications, applications, and other marketing aspects.

    We came prepared Friday morning to start deliberations only to be advised by the judge that the suit had been dismissed and that we were free to leave. What kind of a trial hearing was this? Someone later said that, evidently, the plaintiff wanted the information on the competitive product to become public knowledge in the recordings and no longer confidential or proprietary. As far as we knew, there were no restrictions placed on the defender. In fact, it was never disclosed as to whether the competitive product infringed on the patent, or not.

    It seemed to me that this approach to gaining competitive market strategies was a stretch on the judicial system. I know, personally, that I was not pleased to have been a pawn in this game.


    © Bruce Martin
    They Shoe Horses, Don't They? October 19, 2012 Guest column

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