News & Politics

How to Get Out of Jury Duty

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Our expert: Michele Roberts, who for years was one of Washington’s most renowned criminal and civil-defense lawyers. Last year, she became the first woman to head the National Basketball Players Association.

First and foremost: “You can’t lie. In criminal cases–and it works like a charm, frankly–if people are candid about either their absolute admiration for police officers or their absolute hatred for police officers, that’ll get you kicked pretty quickly.

“I always watched the jurors that were watching my client. If they’re looking at him and their arms are crossed, that suggests to me they have some trepidation. I’d put them on my list [of jurors to strike].

“In civil cases, if anyone winces at the prospect of offering damages over $1 million—there’s not a plaintiff’s counsel alive that’ll keep that person on.

“Sleeping during voir dire is a good way to get tossed out by the judge.” So is, Roberts says, smelling like booze.

“Most people would rather be at the dentist,” says Roberts. So anyone who’s “too eager” raises suspicion. The juror who answers every question and doesn’t reveal any biases is “an anxious juror and I don’t want them—that’s a juror with an agenda.”

Read more advice, tips, and tricks from Washington natives in our Secrets of the City package.

This article appears in our January 2016 issue of Washingtonian.