Harvard Rules

     It’s been a good public relations week for Harvard Law School.
     Quacquarelli Symonds Limited ranked Harvard Law the number one law school in the world (if not the universe) and a Harvard law student won $1 million on the reality TV series “Survivor.”
     I’m not sure those two events are related but maybe they ought to be. If your school can prepare you to win a million bucks on TV, that’s a useful education.
     The student, John Cochran, then announced in response to a question that he wasn’t going to be practicing law. Writing seemed like a better option.
     The school obviously taught him well.
     Really. It did. According to Cochran and all the news reports about him, he wrote a paper on the “Survivor” jury system that earned him the Dean’s Scholar Prize at Harvard Law.
     Then he went on to persuade a jury on the show to make him a unanimous winner.
     What law practice lesson can we learn from this?
     If you watch the show, you know that lawyers aren’t constantly winning. Cochran, who did win, didn’t seem lawyerlike at all. He was more of a soothing presence who listened to people, and we know that’s not lawyerlike.
     I bring this up because I’m intrigued by what Cochran possibly could have said in his paper. After all, a “Survivor” jury isn’t much like an American court jury.
     It might be better.
     Last week, I noted that a Reader’s Digest poll (which was probably rigged) showed that Americans trusted TV judges more than real-life judges. The same may be true for juries.
     Consider the advantages of a “Survivor” type of jury.
     Instead of strangers on the jury, you have a group of people who are intimately familiar with the opposing parties. They’ve just spent weeks with them, partially-clothed and huddled in tents or caves.
     This cuts down on the need to waste time presenting evidence and attesting to character.
     You could even argue that it’s more constitutional. After all, you’re supposed to be entitled to a jury of your peers. Are a bunch of strangers really your peers?
     Peers are people you hang out with. It makes perfect sense.
     “Survivor” juries get to ask the litigants questions, and even better, insult them and demand apologies for hurt feelings.
     Don’t you think we’d all be more willing to serve on juries if we could do that?
     So how is a “Survivor” jury comparable to an American court jury?
     Umm …
     There’s no voir dire on “Survivor” to guarantee an unbiased (or at least ignorant) jury. In fact, you can’t get on the “Survivor” jury unless you’ve competed with the people you’re judging.
     There are no instructions from a judge on “Survivor.” In fact, there are no rules at all by which to judge the litigants.
     Parties don’t have to convince the show jury beyond a reasonable doubt or by a preponderance of the evidence. In fact, evidence isn’t all that important – the game encourages and rewards lying if you do it well enough.
     The “Survivor” jury doesn’t go off somewhere to deliberate. It just votes – and then waits 10 months to find out who won.
     The “Survivor” jury doesn’t get to throw anyone in jail or decide on an amount to reward.
     And there’s no appeal.
     Clearly, the “Survivor” jury system is superior – but it’s not much like the court jury system except for both juries being made up of humans.
     And yet this Cochran fellow not only won in front of the “Survivor” jury, but he also managed to win a prize at Harvard for comparing two things with practically nothing in common.
     Obviously, the man is a genius.
     Or a mutant with mind control powers.
     I’m betting on the latter.

%d bloggers like this: