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Guardians of the Community
The great trial lawyer Moe Levine often described juries as "the conscience of the community." The defendant cannot be expected to be completely forthcoming about his actions or motives. The plaintiff has a natural bias in asking for damages. A jury can truly be objective and can right a wrong if one occurred.
The beauty of our civil justice system — a jury of one's peers — is that the jury is more powerful than a legislator, more powerful than the President of the United States, more powerful than the judge, more powerful than Exxon, or AIG or Halliburton.
The jury has the power, and more importantly the opportunity to set the standards for the community in which they live. Is it okay that the defendant was driving drunk and rear-ended the Plaintiff? Are we as a jury going to tolerate this kind of conduct OR are we, as the Guardian of our Community, going to say:
"It is NOT acceptable to drink and then get into a car and drive. And we, as the jury in this case, are going to state this loud and clear in our verdict so that the next person who thinks it is okay to drink and drive with the hope of getting home safely thinks again."
"It is NOT acceptable to be texting and driving. And we, as the jury in this case, are going to state this loud an clear in our verdict so that the next person who thinks it is okay to text while they drive thinks again."
"It is NOT acceptable to needlessly endanger the public. And we, as the jury in this case, are going to state this loud and clear in our verdict so that the next person who thinks it is okay to needlessly endanger the public thinks again."
Regardless of the severity of the injuries in a case, whether it is a rear end collision in which someone suffered whiplash or a t-bone collision with life-long injuries, juries can make it clear in their verdicts that when you are on the road, pay attention.
"Ordinary Care" does not mean the care the care of a C student - "Reasonable Care" does not mean 'moderate care.' It means the care that is necessary for a prudent person to use under the given circumstances, taking into consideration the risks of danger involved.
These are the things that my firm truly believes in and stresses to juries, to defense attorneys, to insurance companies. Unfortunately, when the insurance companies and the defense attorneys do not listen to us, our focus becomes the juror who are the real champions of what we need in our communities.
What Is Jury Duty? Your Opportunity to Protect and Serve.
I believe that no one is entitled to needlessly endanger another, through willful acts or through carelessness or reckless disregard. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the philosophy that juries are the guardians of the community in which we live. A jury of six in county court or a jury of twelve in district court has unparalleled power and a true opportunity to shape our community and how we treat each other – what conduct is acceptable and what conduct is completely unacceptable.
Juries can draw the line to say these are the values we uphold and these are the rules we live by. Juries can stand up to say that no one should get away with violating the rules or needlessly putting others in harm's way. Juries can hold any defendant — from an individual or property owner to a big corporation or insurance company — to these principles.
Jury duty is a solemn duty, a burden of judging another party's actions or inaction against an obligation to the person who was innocently injured. It is one of the few institutions in our society that can still work as the Founding Fathers intended.
Moe Levine was a plaintiff's attorney and argued his last case nearly four decades ago, but his words still ring true today for an impartial jury trying to balance the scales of justice:
- An injury to one part of a person injures the whole person.
- Damages are not a measure of what was lost, but what the person is left with.
- A jury's oath is to a full measure of justice, not a timid or tempered version of it.
- Jurors are the conscience of a community.
We Respect the Importance of Jury Duty
If you have served as a juror or are one day called to jury duty, I commend you for answering the call. Even though the majority of lawsuits are settled out of court, the option of a jury trial — and the threat of a jury trial — is the foundation of our system of justice.
As personal injury lawyers, we answer to juries too. We can't simply pull on heartstrings and expect a jury to shower our client with monetary damages. We can't use the courtroom as a bully pulpit when jurors are instructed to consider facts and points of law. Juries force us to be better advocates for our clients — prepared with solid arguments, committed to justice, rigorous in our work ethic and forthright in our dealings with clients, the defense, the court, and the ladies and gentlemen of the jury.
My name is Leonard B. Gabbay, an Austin attorney with more than 20 years of experience advocating for the injured in Central Texas and beyond. I invite you to read more about our firm and our areas of practice, as well as our credentials and what clients say about us.