THE ELOQUENCE OF MOE LEVINE IN JURY SUMMATION

Moe Levine is widely recognized as one of the leading trial lawyers of his day. He was an eloquent speaker and frequent lecturer to legal audiences around the country. He developed what he called “the whole man concept” which involved his arguing to juries you cannot injure part of a man and instead injure the whole person. He also argued pain destroys the enjoyment of life. He told juries any loss of life, loss of mobility, or loss of ability, no matter how insignificant it may seem to society, has an impact not only on the victim but to the people who loved that person as well. He practiced in Mineola, New York. He died in 1974.

Moe’s style of advocacy was to elevate  the jurors as the voice of the community. He argued: “Your decision does not speak merely for yourself but speaks for community justice.”

Moe told lawyers jurors are the collective conscience of the community. He told jurors they were not simply twelve individuals with opinions. They were instead the collective conscience of the community. He told them” “ Your verdict speaks with one voice.” Thus no matter what the case, no matter how small or big, Moe always elevated the jury’s role.

He told lawyers: “Whether it is a slip and fall, a Good Humor ice cream truck case, or a simple automobile accident, the justice in the case must rise to the conscience of the community.” There is no question that his words empowered the jury to feel singularly important in their role of setting community standards. Moe told lawyers “The identification of the jury with the community to me is the most important thing that ever struck me, like a bolt of lightening. We have all skirted the issue. Do it directly, ‘Jurors you are the voice of the community. When you speak, you speak for the community attitudes.’” Powerful then and powerful now

Moe’s view of the jury as a conscience of the community was verified in September of 2007 when the U.S. Postal service issued a jury duty stamp. The announcement included this language:.

WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Postal Service continues its tradition of drawing attention to important social causes by issuing the Jury Duty stamp at the Manhattan State Supreme Court today, September 12, in New York City. The first-day-of-issuance ceremony highlighted the Juror Appreciation Day celebration, an annual event that salutes New York jurors. Mary Anne Gibbons, senior vice president, general counsel of the Postal Service co-hosted the ceremony with Chief Judge Judith Kaye of New York.

“Serving on a jury is an important part of public service to our communities,” said Gibbons. “It is a role that should be taken most seriously. This stamp is an excellent way to highlight its significance.”

With this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service calls attention to the importance of jury service, an essential obligation, shared by all eligible citizens, that is a cornerstone of democracy in the United States. By showing a diverse group of 12 representative jurors in silhouette, art director Carl T. Herrman and stamp designer Lance Hidy emphasize that, under the U.S. Constitution, the American jury system guarantees citizens the right to a trial by a jury of their peers.

Generally, in criminal cases, 12 jurors stand between the accused and the power of the government. Unless the government convinces a jury of the accused person’s guilt – beyond a reasonable doubt – it may not deprive a citizen of life, liberty or property. In civil cases, a jury represents the conscience of the larger community, ruling in favor of either of the opposing parties in a dispute.

Moe’s other ideas about the jury included:

  1. To motivate the jury they must feel their verdict is a “meaningful verdict.” That means a verdict which they will be proud of when they go home. One they want to tell their neighbors about. Therefore, there must be a reason why the verdict is one they will be proud to have rendered.
  2. They need to be told that they are the “voice and conscience” of the community. They set community standards and speak for the community. That means what they do is very important and has meaning beyond just the participants in the case.
  3. It is true they must follow the  law, but while the judge gives the law, it us up to the jury to determine the true facts and  apply the law in a way that justice will be  done & a just verdict will result.  There is a  subtle jury nullification idea in this idea and they should be empowered to do what they believe is right under the law and evidence.
  4. It isn’t enough that it is the right verdict. To be proud of the verdict it must be the right verdict for the right reason.
  5. It’s not what was taken away that is important. It’s what the person was left with that is important. If you take $5 from a wealthy person, it is insignificant, but if you take $5 from a poor person it is significant.

Studying Moe Levine and his concepts about the jury will improve your jury summations. See Trial Guides.com for books about Moe.

About Paul Luvera

Plaintiff trial lawyer for 50 years. Past President of the Inner Circle of Advocates & Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. Member American Board of Trial Advocates, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy, International Society of Barristers, member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame & speaker at Spence Trial College
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