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Chuck Otey’s Pro Bono Barrister: Brooklyn Bar panel to explore the growing ‘Billyburg Effect’ on jury panels

Should Trial Lawyers Binge Watch Lena Dunham’s Edgy TV Show ‘Girls’ Before Picking a Jury Here?

June 27, 2016 By Charles F. Otey, Esq. Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Lena Dunham.  Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP
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“Put it this way,” a Court Street trial lawyer asked, “Would you want to have the cast of ‘Girls’ serve as the jury in a case you were trying here in Kings County?”

Answering his own question, citing “Girls” — the morally free-swinging Williamsburg television team ingeniously created by and starring Lena Dunham — he said, “It could be chaos. These [hipsters] are people who make their own rules and seem to be more concerned about what their fellow hipsters think than they are with the relevant law a judge might cite from PJI [Pattern Jury Instructions].”

Dunham’s “Girls” depicts the nitty gritty of hipster life, baring bodies and motives of a social set that, sociologists say, has its roots in the hippie era of the 1940s and ’50s, was then shared and was energized by the anti-Vietnam rage of the ’60s and ’70s, later flirted with yuppyism (young urban professionals) and then moved en masse to the rotting industrial sections and other run-down neighborhoods of major cities — in our case, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Gowanus, et. al. — to the present day.

They’re usually over-educated (for any available job) and therefore underemployed, unmarried and often — as is Dunham’s “Girls” character — supported financially by their parents. Like the original hippies, they often jump bed to bed with close friends and others, unhampered by the burdensome bonds of committed, legal marriage.

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Can Hipsters Be ‘Bothered’ to Heed a Judge’s Jury Instructions?

Are these latter-day hipsters really dwelling in a limited world of their own creation, mindless — even dismissive — of the legal concepts and nuances that control the application of the law in a civil or a criminal case?

Good question. Thankfully, some  well-informed answers are on the way tonight.

The  Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA)’s presentation set for 6 p.m. tonight at its 123 Remsen St. headquarters, titled “Jury Selection in a ‘New’ Brooklyn: Hipsters, Transplants and Millennials,” will hopefully provide some guidelines to apply when one or more from this burgeoning new class appear in the jury selection room.

“Over the past two decades, the demographics of Brooklyn have significantly changed,” the BBA program guide explains. “With the influx of hipsters, millennials and transplants, Brooklyn jury pools have changed as well. The course will provide insight to how Brooklyn’s changing demographics are affecting the jury pool and consequently affecting jury selection in civil cases. Attendees will hear from Michael Ronemus, Thomas Ger-spach and Judge Ellen Spodek on these and other jury selection issues facing attorneys in civil cases.

The evening, which starts with a repast at 5:30 p.m., is sponsored by the BBA Medical Malpractice Committee, led by Chair John A. Bonina,  Esq.

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Barristers See Big Trouble, Advantage Going to Prosecutors, Big Insurance Companies with Hipster Panels

“The [Criminal Court] jurors are becoming more like Manhattan, which is not good for defendants,’’ noted veteran defense lawyer Julie Clark in an online report.

Former BBA president Arthur Aidala, who handles high-profile criminal cases, recalled, “When I was a prosecutor 22 years ago, jury pools  used to be 80 percent people of color, but now grand juries have more  ‘law and order’ types.”

Another former Brooklyn prosecutor and defense lawyer, John Paul DeVerna, said, “The ‘Williamsburg Effect’ affects every case that goes to trial. A contrarian-minded person — and Billyburg has them in spades — can cause discord in the jury room. And if the hipster gets along with everyone, that can even be more dangerous because they are confident and educated, which means they have the potential to hijack the jury.”

“People who can afford to live in Brooklyn now don’t have the experience of police officers throwing them against cars and searching them. A person who just moves here from Wisconsin or Wyoming, they can’t relate to [that]. It doesn’t sound credible to them,” noted one barrister.

Civil juries, it will doubtless be explained tonight, have become more pro-defendant, which means pro-big insurance companies.

“There’s an influx of money and when everything gets gentrified, these jurors aren’t pro-plaintiff anymore,” said plaintiff lawyer Charen Kim.


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