Oct 1

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How Can We Revive Civil Jury Trials?

Law Professors Richard L. Jolly and Valerie Hans plus constitutional lawyer Robert S. Peck have some ideas for answering that question.  In September they published “The Civil Jury: Reviving an American Institution,” in which they identify a variety of challenges to the vitality of civil jury trials.  These include procedural changes stripping juries of their authority, campaigns to denigrate the role of juries, and COVID-19’s unique constraints on the empaneling and use of civil juries. They believe this results in a tragic loss of the demonstrable sociopolitical benefits of jury service. They conclude that much is risked if the attacks on the civil jury continue and if efforts are not taken to reverse the damage already done. Reforms for reviving the institution should be focused on removing barriers to jury access and enhancing fair and accurate jury fact-finding.  Their paper is published by the Berkeley Law Civil Justice Research Initiative.

Batson Challenge Sustained in Tesla Case

In Di-az et al. v. Tesla Inc., Law 360 ($) reports U.S. District Court Judge William H. Orrick sustained a Batson challenge raised by counsel for a Black ex-Tesla  worker claiming the company's Northern California factory was a hotbed  of  racial discrimination against African Americans reminiscent of the Jim Crow era. During the motion hearing, Tesla's counsel tried to justify the strike, saying it wasn't race-based and that they sought to strike the Black  juror because of his personal experience of being called the N-word while working at a grocery store and seeing  nothing change after he reported it to his manager. Plaintiff's counsel argued that's a race-based strike, explaining that people of color are likely to experience racial discrimination and so striking someone just for having that experience is striking them because of their race.  Judge Orrick blocked Tesla's peremptory challenge, saying the man—who was one of many jurors who shared their personal experiences of racial discrimination after being prompted by the judge—was "perfectly able" to serve as an impartial juror.

Pound Institute Papers Suggest Ways to Improve Diversity and Representativeness of Civil Juries

The Pound Civil Justice Institute’s 2021 Forum for State Appellate Court Judges was themed “Juries, Voir Dire, Batson, and Beyond: Achieving Fairness in Civil Jury Trials.” Two important papers that were commissioned for the forum are now accessible.  Cornell’s Valerie Hans presented “Challenges to Achieving Fairness in Civil Jury Selection.”  Shari Diamond from Northwestern University proffered “Judicial Rulemaking for Jury Trial Fairness.” Their concise writings cogently identify tasks that bench and bar leaders should focus on to address ever present issues of implicit bias and discrimination in jury selection.

Indigenous Civil Jury Trials Soon to Be Underway in Argentina

Chaco Province is close to finalizing procedures to assure its native peoples will serve on civil juries (as is the case in criminal cases).  The Asociacion Argentina de Juicio por Jurados assures us the rules will:

  • Establish a civil jury of twelve members, presided over by a judge who will instruct the jury on the law, and a general unanimous verdict. A special verdict may also be rendered. The jury will try class actions, consumer rights collective disputes, tort cases of over half a million pesos and collective environmental and land disputes.
  • Require the civil adversarial litigation in a mandatory oral and public trial.
  • Assure the jury will have gender equality—composed of six women and six men.
  • Guarantee indigenous juries.  If the plaintiff and the defendant belong to the Wichí, Moqoit, or Qom Indigenous Peoples, the twelve jurors will be of that ethnic group.
  • Provide both a discovery hearing and a case management hearing.

Thousands Summoned for Jury Service in Trial Expected to Last One Year

Yes. That is the case in Santa Barbara County, California, where five MS-13 gang members are on trial for murder.  The Santa Maria Times tells us more.

Nominate an innovator in jury operations

The Center for Jury Studies is accepting nominations for the G. Thomas Musterman Award for Jury Innovation, which recognizes states, local courts, individuals, or other organizations that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, or practices. The nomination deadline has been extended to October 15, 2021. Email nomination letter, as well as submission form, to Greg Mize.

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