Peering into Jury Trials

By Thompson, Pitt | Security Management, January 1999 | Go to article overview

Peering into Jury Trials


Thompson, Pitt, Security Management


A mock trial can help security examine its policies and procedures while helping staff members learn good practices.

"Trial by jury," declared Lord Denman Thomas in 1844, "instead of being a security to persons who are accused, will be a delusion, a mockery, and a snare." While that judgment may be a bit harsh, security managers understand all too well the difficulty of trying to defend security policies and procedures before juries with no prior knowledge of the field.

One way to manage the risk of litigation is through a training tool called mock trials. These exercises can give any organization the opportunity to examine its security policies and procedures from a legal standpoint before it is faced with the real thing. And if cases do end up in court, the training may help the company make its case.

To set up a program, the security director will need to consider the following: the cast of characters, the frequency, the format, the objective, and the scenario.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

The main players in any mock trial will include a plaintiff, a defendant, a mediator, and legal counsel. Other participants can be added depending on the nature of the topic. For example, a person may be needed to play the defendant's employer.

The lead characters should be security experts, and some of the major participants should have courtroom experience. Security may also want to include senior managers who have a vested interest in the topic of the mock trial. For example, a facilities manager would be a good choice for a premises liability topic, and a human resources manager would add insight to a mock trial on negligent hiring. At least one of the trial participants should be from the company's legal counsel or legal department.

The participants should be able to clearly present the facts of the case to the audience. They should be selected based on their real-life experiences as they relate to all parties involved in the case. A member of the company's senior management should serve as the plaintiff. This participant will discuss the plaintiff's basis for bringing legal action against the defendant and present the plaintiff's case.

Another senior manager should serve as the defendant. This participant will discuss the specifics of the case as they relate to the defendant's actions; he or she will also discuss the legal, procedural, or rational basis for those actions.

If needed, a third senior manager can play the role of the defendant's employer. This participant will discuss the company's policies and how they were established. This player also reveals his or her knowledge of the incident and the position the company is taking regarding the allegations.

A mediator's position should also be included in the mock trial. At the beginning of the trial, this person should review the facts of the case for the audience. When the trial is finished, the mediator will discuss whether the jury made a logical decision based on an objective look at the facts and the law. This role can be played by a member of the company's security team or an objective third party who is familiar with the company and its business but is not on the payroll.

An attorney should also participate in the trial. The attorney's job is to resolve questions of legal procedure for the participants and the audience. His or her role can vary depending on the structure of the presentation, which could take the form of a discussion panel or role-playing that more closely mirrors a real trial. In a panel format, the attorney will simply convey information regarding legal issues after the parties have presented the facts. In a trial format, the attorney would impart similar information but would do so while serving as the judge.

In general, the attorney discusses with participants the legal rights and obligations of the defendant. For example, in a mock trial involving a noncompete contract, the attorney would discuss whether the contract was valid as written. …

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