Andrew Ferguson just starred in his first movie. There was a director, professional makeup, and free lunch on set, but the script focused on the rather un-Hollywood subject of jury duty—a seemingly dull topic that galvanizes Ferguson more than it does just about anyone in this country.
Ferguson, 42, a D.C. native and University of District of Columbia law professor, stars in the D.C. Superior Court's newest orientation video for jurors, "We the People: A Call to Duty." The 22-minute video, which made its debut Feb. 24, is shown twice a day in the juror's lounge on a half dozen or so screens to each summoned District juror. The video features dramatic music, clips from old American movies, and jurors played by actors. Ferguson starts off the video by talking to the jurors who, like most jurors, are serving begrudgingly. He responds to their complaints by extolling the virtues of jury duty—a process that he calls "foundational to the American legal system." The rest of the video explains to the jurors the process of serving on a jury and what their days on a jury will be like.
In real life, Ferguson is even more passionate about jury duty. He jokes that he's become the face of jury duty, but with little competition for that quasi-laudatory title, he sort of is.
Prior to his academic career, Ferguson worked as a public defender in D.C. It was there, he says, that he realized the importance of jury duty. He saw that the 12 people deciding the fate of the person on trial all took their responsibilities seriously. They sat across the table from each, talking and deliberating with each other. It is the only place, Ferguson says, that the wealthy lobbyist from K Street and the low-wage worker from east of the river work together as equals.
"The D.C. jury room is one of the most democratic places in all of D.C.," Ferguson, who has never served on a jury, says. "The moment can be transformational."
In 2013, he wrote a book about jury duty—Why Jury Duty Matters—that explains the constitutional meaning and importance of jury duty and employs anecdotes from his time as a D.C. lawyer. It's the first book ever written for jurors on jury duty service, according to Ferguson's UDC bio.
"There are 10,000 books on cats, but none on jury duty," he says. "As a society, we don't do a good job of explaining why jury duty is important."
Read more How One D.C. Man Became the Face of Jury Duty