Monthly Archives: December 2010

Empathy is Down Among College Students – How That Affects Your Jury

A new study discussed in Scientific American finds that empathy among college students has declined precipitously in the last 30 years, with steeper declines in the last 10 years. The study seems to link this to increasing social isolation – people spend less time around other people and connect more online, through facebook, etc. (This social isolation was a growing concern even before the meteoric rise of social media – take a look at Putnam’s Bowling Alone, a 2000 book based on a 1995 essay – still good reading).

A few things aren’t clear from the stub I linked – namely whether empathy grows as people get older and whether the social isolation hypothesis is causally connected or merely correlated. I know that I’ve always been an empathetic person, even as a college student. That’s probably what led me to this line of work. As I’ve gotten older, I find myself increasingly empathetic – caring more about people who I would have dismissed in my youth, understanding that we don’t necessarily know what makes someone act a certain way (a point discussed well by the late David Foster Wallace). This was summed up well in a fantastic unrelated essay by Cord Jefferson in the Awl about his decision to give his alcoholic father a kidney – “It’s not until you grow up and start making real decisions that you begin to comprehend the complexity of the web that connects a person’s heart and mind to their hands.” So maybe these college students will be more empathetic when they are 30. Or 40.

To bring this discussion back on track and away from the meanderings of my mind, consider whether you want to put young people on your jury. Several lawyers have told me that I’m an idiot if I put anyone under 25 on my juries. They might be right, they might not. I’ve said several times that you can’t assume an individual’s beliefs or values based on the characteristics of that individual’s generation.

Yet in jury selection, we have very little time to extrapolate an entire belief system from dozens of people, based on precious little information. Maybe you don’t want younger people. All I know is that when you thumb through your mental rolodex of heuristics to pick a jury, consider that younger people might not be very empathetic.

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer living in Moline, Illinois. He’s still under 30, but was never part of the quoted survey. So who knows. You can reach him at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at]

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New Illinois Criminal Case Allows Judicial Notice of Google Maps at Trial

I guess the headline of this post says it all. Just remember that People v. Clark is a criminal case, and is a Second District case, not Illinois Supreme Court. Still, this is a good weapon to have in your trial lawyer’s arsenal.

(Howard Zimmerle practices plaintiff’s personal injury law in Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa, as well as the surrounding areas. You can contact him at hzimmerle [at], or 309-794-1660).

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Filed under Illinois Case Law, Illinois law, Trial Practice

Helpful Links for Iowa/Illinois Trial Lawyers

Bookmark this page.

Do it now. I’ll wait.

Thanks. There are several websites that I consult on a regular basis, and unfortunately, no one seems to have them all in one place. Here are some of my most-used websites. Some more may be added in the future, so check back. Also, any suggestions would be welcomed!

Background Checks/Case Status Checks

Why? So you can check to see if cases have been filed, check the status of traffic tickets and other criminal matters, and other fun stuff that can be accessed through a court records search.


Illinois (many counties):

Rock Island County:

Corporation Searches

Why? So you can sue the right entities!



State Patrol Crash Reports

Why? So you can find out what happened – as long as Iowa State Patrol is involved. Iowa Crash reports only stay available online for 15 days.



Why? So you can find out if a defendant owns any real estate, and find the correct owner of a piece of property. This can be really helpful for premises liability cases. In many counties in Iowa, you can search by name.


Rock Island County Illinois:

Liquor License Search

Why? So you can sue the right entity in a dram shop case, among other benefits.



Physician Finder

Why? So when your client can only remember some vague information about what doctors they went to, you can hopefully track down the right one. Limited to the Quad Cities only, just for ease of linkage.



View/Map the Scene of a Crash

Why? We all have to know the lay of the land – literally. You can get a satellite photo of an intersection, along with birds-eye views of certain areas from different angles. Years ago some attorneys would hire helicopters to fly above an intersection so they could take photos to show the jury. Those days are gone, my friends. Oh, and Google? Not nearly as good as Bing when it comes to maps.

Vehicle Appraisal

Why? So you can estimate what your client’s wrecked car is worth. Negotiate wisely.

Kelly Blue Book:

NADA guides:

Anything I’ve missed?

(Howard Zimmerle is a trial lawyer practicing in Iowa and Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or at hzimmerle [at]

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Filed under Great Websites, Links, Trial Practice