It's not often that we get to report on positive developments in our dysfunctional justice system. But I think we might finally have one.
Sal Esposito, a Boston resident, recently received a summons to report for jury service. But Sal is not your standard New Englander, called to perform his civic duty. He's a cat.
Sal's owners aren't sure how he wound up on the jurors' list. They tried to get him an exemption, claiming he doesn't speak English. But it was denied!
Thankfully for Sal, it looks like he won't have to go through the tedium of being questioned by lawyers about his likes and dislikes. His veterinarian wrote a letter to court officials, explaining that Sal's a cat, not a human.
Here's an update about Sal's brush with the court system:
Why could this be a positive development? Well, I've witnessed two juries in action, from start to finish of trials. In one case I was a party, in the other an observer. In both cases, the juries got their findings hopelessly wrong, based on the facts and the law. I strongly suspect both juries were tainted--or members of the juries were on some serious opiates.
One of the great myths of American justice is that our jury system is somehow sacrosanct. In fact, I suspect many Americans would be shocked at how often juries are corrupted--and how easy it is to corrupt them. Based on my observations, I would say if you can somehow get the jury foreman in your hip pocket, you've probably got the whole jury.
I wonder how often foremen are swayed--with a gift, a favor, an out-and-out bribe--in order to push juries in a certain direction. It probably happens way more than most people would dream.
And here's another theory of mine: I suspect much courthouse corruption originates in clerks' offices--at both the state and federal levels. Clerks' offices decide which judges get which cases, who gets into jury pools, etc. In other words, some of the most important decisions that determine the outcomes of cases originate in clerks' offices.
Do powerful law firms in certain jurisdictions have the wherewithal--and the utter lack of ethics--to sway actions of courthouse clerks? My guess is--yes, they have that power, and yes, they use it.
How do we get around this dilemma? I think Sal Esposito has helped provide an answer: We start having animals on jury duty.
Animals are much more honest than people anyway. And think about it: How could a corrupt lawyer manage to bribe a cat? And how could a slimy judge improperly influence a jury full of cats? Heck, our cats, Baxter and Chloe, don't listen to me--and I control their food supply. Why would they listen to a judge, one who wears a scary black robe and probably smells bad.
I asked Baxter if he would like to serve on a jury, and he seemed up for it.
"Will I actually have to pay attention?" he asked.
"Nope," I told him. "I've seen human juries that obviously didn't pay attention."
"Is it OK if I fall off to sleep?"
"Perfectly fine. I've seen human jurors do that."
"Is it OK if I lick myself from time to time?"
"I've seen human jurors do that, too."
"What about noms?"
"You get plenty of time for lunch. And taxpayers pick up the tab."
"Is it OK if I entertain the other jurors during breaks with some of my leaping, tumbling, and roll-over tricks?"
"Heck, that kind of thing is encouraged in Alabama. During the Don Siegelman case, a juror did back flips for her fellow panel mates. They called her "Flipper" because of her gymnastics skills. I'm sure you can pull off tricks that she never dreamed of. And you're probably cuter than she is, too."
"I'm a high-tech guy. I've got to be able to send texts and e-mails to my buddies on the jury."
"Not a problem. Again, in the Don Siegelman case, that kind of behavior among jurors was perfectly fine."
"That sounds great, dude. Count me in."
"Good deal. I'll call the clerk's office right now."
While I'm on the phone with the clerk, I'm going to suggest they contact "Sammy the Cat" in Notasulga, Alabama. He already hangs around a post office all day, so he probably can learn the ropes of a courthouse. Here's the latest on Sammy. If I were involved in a case, I would take my chances with Sammy, over a human, any day.