Musings of a Trial Lawyer Waiting For the Jury (August 2022)
“As I type this note, my last submission as President of the LAJ, I am awaiting the response of eight jurors in the Western District of Louisiana. Their verdict will have to be unanimous. This venire and jury were a trucking defense lawyer’s dream – truck drivers, dispatchers, logistics folks, insurance company employees. The jurors we ended up getting did not look great on paper, but I’m hopeful they came in open-minded. After a week of trial, I have no idea how they received the evidence I presented.
Rough week. Gave a home hum opening, fought through some tough admissibility issues throughout the trial, and just wrapped up with a decent but not spectacular closing. Violated my first rule of openings/closings – used some notes as reminders to make sure I covered all of the issues. It ruins the flow. I know better. I talked too fast. Again.
I did have the unique experience of my youngest son coming to his first opening and giving me his thoughts. His insight became the opening lines of the closing argument. Simple, straightforward, and properly attributed: “Dad, they think the guy with the stop sign can go, and the guy without the stop sign has to stop?” Bryce David, age 13.
I had previously committed to a legal convention in Whistler, Canada, last week. That event ended the Saturday before this Monday morning jury trial. That means I spent the week before the trip burning the midnight oil preparing. Fourteen-hour weekend days and longer weekdays on the front end, and then every morning in Canada preparing witnesses and exhibits during the early morning hours.
Now, I find myself sitting alone at this courtroom table realizing I can literally count the hours of sleep I’ve had this week on two hands. Last night, I made myself leave the office after midnight (my hard and fast rule is always stop at midnight or before). Made it to bed by 12:30am, and I did not sleep one solitary moment. I was exhausted, but my mind was racing about improvements to my closing, what traps I may be missing with my very capable opposing counsel, and how I cannot let my client down. We have truth and justice on our side, but did I deliver the evidence effectively? The jury had to understand the way I was connecting the dots, right? It’s out of my hands now. Still waiting. No questions from the jury yet.
I love this job. My client is salt of the earth. Hard working scaffolder who will never be the same. Hurt by a truck that failed to yield, and they have blamed him for the collision for four years. Justice should prevail. It must. He deserves to be compensated for his harms and losses. I guess I’ve done this too many times. Nervousness of years gone by is now more anticipation, exhilaration, and an ever-growing wave of fatigue that is just waiting to overtake my adrenaline the second I get in my car to drive home from the courthouse. Still no verdict. The jury just asked for the medical records in this liability and medical causation case. That’s good as long as we don’t have any juror-turned-physicians second guessing the treating doctors.
The defense counsel just rolled back in. Now, we spend 30 minutes swapping war stories. An evenly balanced exchange of two litigators humble bragging and then flat out boasting about our respective amazing legal abilities to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Laying it on thick. Not so many stories of those dark days and bad beats that any true trial lawyer has in his war story catalogue. Signs of weakness are discouraged in these moments. Still no verdict. Four hours. They have to be talking damages.
To all of my brothers and sisters in the Louisiana Association for Justice working to have the truth heard and our clients’ harms and losses repaired, thank you for letting me serve this past year. It has been the greatest honor of my professional life. Thank you also for allowing me to pen this last letter to distract me from the matters at hand and those 400 or so ever-accruing emails that I cannot even think about reading. Choosing this format form my last column was not just about passing time, it is about sharing an experience we all know so well.
Our leadership team has worked tirelessly this year. LAJ’s work will continue with Scott Bickford of New Orleans as president and a full team of new leaders for the coming year. I hope to see you at the Fall Convention September 22nd-24th at Windsor Court in New Orleans.
Still no verdict. Please come find me at the Windsor Court. We can head to the Polo Lounge and discuss the outcome. If it goes well, I can tell you the story, and the drink is on me. If not, maybe you can buy me a drink, and we can commiserate together.
Successful jury verdict – 100% of fault to the trucking company and multimillion-dollar award to our injured client.