Propaganda in the Jury Room

First Street Courthouse, downtown Los Angeles.

A few days ago, a close friend, a good citizen, responded to a summons for jury duty.

My friend was dismayed when, in the jury assembly room, CNN was switched on the big screen TV. The nonstop barrage of anti-Republican, hate-Trump propaganda was, to say the least, inappropriate for potential jurors. This kind of bias has no place in our courts.

My friend penned a letter to the Court Clerk.

July 18, 2017

To the members of the Court,

Yesterday I fulfilled my civic duty to serve as a potential jury member at the new Federal Court at 350 West First street. I was impressed by the amenities and the graciousness of the staff in the assembly room. 

However, my mood was shattered when big screen TVs were turned on while we waited for instruction. The station was CNN, and the barrage of political contention was certainly poisoning my mind set. The sound was even piped into the bathrooms. I would feel the same if Fox News was transmitted. 

No juror should be forced to listen to the news while they are trying to pass the time. If you feel that TV is a necessary amenity, then at least provide earphones for those that request it, but the blasting vituperations of reporters, regardless of bias, should not be forced upon the entire group.  CNN news, or any news should not be default condition. 

I asked the receptionist if she could turn it off, she said that even if she did, if one person asked for it, she would turn it back on. I replied, “But I’m one person who wants it off?” Please address this matter so further potential jurors are not exposed to political rhetoric and can remain bias free when  they are called to the courtroom for voir dire.

My friend received this response:

From: <Vanessa_Figueroa@cacd.uscourts.gov>
Date: Tue, Jul 18, 2017 at 1:07 PM
Subject: Re: Assembly room procedures

Thank you for your email.

I apologize to you on behalf of the court and will forward your concern to my manager.

Best,

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4 Comments

  1. Posted July 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    The only time I recall giving news television my attention was in the three weeks after 9/11 when, like many people, I sat watching it numbly, looking for an explanation that made sense. I haven’t watched it since, except to ignore it while it was playing in the background in the newsroom I worked in. Long story short, I know how the sausage is made. Don’t order the sausage.
    Rick McGinnis recently posted..Three yearsMy Profile

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  2. sheldan
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    I don’t often care unless it’s MSNBC…:-)

    But, seriously, this has caused me to think about this. You may be right that news stations (CNN and Fox) may have no place in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices, since we cannot agree on whether they are biased. (But what about local news, such as a channel that rebroadcasts local news?) I suppose that “The View,” “The Talk,” “Ellen,” “Maury,” etc. would probably be taboo too…How about soap operas or “Let’s Make A Deal”? Maybe we should go back to the old days when we only had magazines in the waiting room. As for jury duty, you are right on. This should have been a no-brainer for the waiting room.

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  3. pkoning
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    It’s bad enough to get propaganda in doctor’s offices. But your friend is right, a courthouse is no place for any of this, and any judge should know enough. Then again, any judge should know and honor the Constitution, and very few indeed actually do.

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  4. GetThereJustAsSoon
    Posted July 19, 2017 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    I’ll second your friend’s concern for medical professional offices. I found myself in a doctor’s office, for example, waiting to have a biopsy of my prostate gland (had an elevated PSA and knew there was a problem but not the extent) and hearing how “poor” the Clintons were upon leaving the White House.

    In another instance, when I complimented staff at a different doctor’s office for their playing light classical instead of the news, etc. they got a rather sour expression. Perhaps, they thought I ought to have my mind diverted from thinking of whether I had the beginnings of glaucoma by the latest “fake news” about Team Trump.

    What a jumbled state our society seems to be.

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