How a federal judge determined who was my friend.

February 29, 2012

Several years ago I was summoned to the local federal court for jury duty. On the appointed day I sat in the jury box for the “voir dire,” a legal term that refers to preliminary examination of prospective jurors to determine their qualifications and suitability to serve on a jury. I knew that I would not be selected because I had been in law enforcement in the past and because I knew one of the attorneys in the case. When the judge asked if any prospective jurors knew either of the attorneys I raised my hand. The judge, a man who had served in that capacity for many years, asked which attorney I knew. I replied accordingly, and then he asked if the attorney and I were good friends or merely acquaintances. I said that we were “a little bit of both” at which point he asked a very interesting question.

“Have you ever been to his home for dinner, or has he ever been to your home for dinner?”

I replied that neither he had been to my home nor had I been to his. The judge nodded, and then moved on to question the next prospective juror. As I thought about the judge’s question I realized what he meant. From his perspective, friends visited with each other in their homes while acquaintances did not necessarily do so. He was of an age and background where people socialized in their homes.

Times have changed. Although friends may visit each others’ homes for meals the custom now is to go out to a restaurant for dinner. There are many reasons for this. In today’s world there are more working couples, more restaurants, less social time, etc. Most people simply do not have dinner parties anymore.

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