Earlier in the week on his Notes from the (Legal) Underground weblog, Evan Schaeffer propounded a Query to Working Lawyers: Is It Professionally Acceptable to Drink at Lunch? I contributed a slightly sozzled reminiscence in the comments. The consensus appears to be that it is Professionally Unacceptable in most circumstances to imbibe potent spirits on the lunch hour because (surprise!) doing so is likely to impair one's legal performance in the afternoon.
Here's a related question: Is It Jurisprudentially Acceptable to Drink During Deliberations? The New York Times reports on efforts to overturn the conviction of a retired firefighter, accused of stealing souvenirs from the World Trade Center site, because the defendant's attorneys have demonstrated that Juror No. 4 was drunk:
They said that after the guilty verdict, he approached the defendant, his brother, wife and lawyers, wobbly and glassy-eyed, to apologize for finding him guilty and telling him that he understood how difficult it must have been to work at the World Trade Center site. Someone smelled alcohol on his breath.
The judge scheduled a hearing, and in May, his fellow jurors were called back to court to testify about his behavior during deliberations. Their descriptions call to mind the guy on the next bar stool who has had a few too many: 'agitated,' 'overly effusive,' 'scatterbrained' and 'inappropriately forthcoming with opinions and directions.'
Finally, Juror No. 4 took the stand and admitted he had filled his 16-ounce Poland Spring bottle half with vodka, half with water, nipping at it during the four hours of deliberations after eating half of a ham and cheese hero. He had drained two-thirds of the bottle during deliberations, and after the verdict was read he took a last 'big swig,' he testified.
Yesterday, Justice Ellen M. Coin of State Supreme Court in Manhattan issued her ruling: the verdict should stand.
The reason? There is apparently no law against drinking while serving as a juror and deliberating the fate of a fellow New Yorker.
* * *
The justice, in her opinion, relied on a 1987 United States Supreme Court decision involving a jury that made Juror No. 4 look like a Calvinist preacher. Those jurors, in a case that was later heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, drank, used cocaine, smoked marijuana, sold drugs to one another and slept through a conspiracy and fraud trial that one juror called 'one big party.'
In that case, the court ruled: 'However severe their effect and improper their use, drugs or alcohol voluntarily ingested by a juror seems no more an "outside influence" than a virus, poorly prepared food or a lack of sleep.'
There you have it, friends: Justice is not merely blind, it's blind drunk.