Apr 29

final-jur-e headline

New Justice Ketanji Brown-Jackson Cares About Jury Trials

Something that did not surface during the U.S. Senate hearings to confirm Judge Brown-Jackson is her devotion to trial by jury. That enthusiasm is exemplified by her serving as co-chair of the D.C. Jury Project, which produced Jury Service Revisited: Upgrades for the 21st Century. The project is a multiyear effort by the Council for Court Excellence (CCE) to improve how jury trials are conducted in our nation’s capital. As Justice Brown-Jackson and Co-Chair Irv Nathan wrote in their introductory note, the goal of their work was to “make the system more efficient for jurors, judges and litigants; to foster understanding regarding the importance of jury service in our community; and ultimately, to increase satisfaction with the fairness and efficacy of the jury system on the part of all who come in contact with it.” The new justice also stars in an educational video titled Justice in Action: You Be the Jury. It was produced by CCE as part of its School Jury Education Program. For 20 years, CCE Board members and local judges have visited D.C. public school classrooms using the School Jury Education Program to train tomorrow’s jurors and to foster positive interactions between the District’s youth and the judiciary.

Judicial and Juror Miscues Abound During Voir Dire in Parkland H.S. Capital Sentencing Trial—Is It Time to Start All Over?

Last week the Jur-E Bulletin reported that jury selection began last month in the penalty phase of the murder case against shooter Nicholas Cruz. As voir dire continued this week, Local News 10 in Florida reports some venire members were so upset with Mr. Cruz’s conduct that one shouted an expletive at him in earshot of others. Thereafter, other prospective jurors became belligerent. Local News 10 later reported the trial judge compounded the turmoil by excusing several other jurors without hearing arguments from the defense counsel. Judge Elizabeth Scherer, while enduring criticism from a veteran trial lawyer, has left unresolved whether the trial (expected to last from four to six months) must start all over.

Calls for Implicit Bias Training Extend to Medical Professionals

The impact of explicit bias has been the focus of much analysis and training of legal professionals in recent years. It is noteworthy that implicit bias is becoming a concern for the medical profession. The Pew Charitable Trusts reports on empirical data showing how implicit bias affects physician care of patients of different races. Dr. Lisa Cooper, a leading researcher on racial health disparities at Johns Hopkins University, found that participating Baltimore-area primary care doctors said they regarded their White and their Black patients the same. But her testing on their unconscious attitudes revealed something quite different. Those tests showed that two-thirds of the physicians preferred White patients over Black. About the same percentage perceived White patients as more cooperative, while they perceived Black patients as more mistrustful and reluctant to comply with medical guidance. Pew notes that since 2019, at least four states—California, Maryland, Michigan, and Washington—have adopted policies requiring some health care workers to take implicit bias training (for some it’s a prerequisite for professional licensure or renewal). Most requirements came through legislation, but Michigan’s was a gubernatorial directive. Bills on implicit bias training in health care have been introduced in state legislatures over the past two years, including Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Vermont. Minnesota passed a law last year requiring obstetrics units to offer implicit bias training.

Arizona Supremes Consider Constitutional Challenge to Anonymous Juries

Courthouse News Service describes the oral arguments presented to Arizona Supreme Court justices last week. In Morgan v. Hon. Timothy Dickerson et al., two court journalists protest the restrictive measures taken by trial judges in criminal cases in rural Cochise County. They claim anonymous jurors pose a unique threat to the justice system. Plaintiffs assert anonymous juries are “likely to convict 15% more often than if they’re not,” citing a study from the Cornell Law Review. In the study, researchers found potential biases in a defendant’s presumption of innocence based on a juror’s anonymity. The study also found jury anonymity is an artifact from when judges were concerned over juror safety against defendants involved in organized crime.

How Much Do We Appreciate Jurors? Compensation Is a Measure

Sunday, May 1, is National Law Day. Many courts use National Law Day as an opportunity to recognize juror contributions to our justice system, not the least of which is their dedication to doing fair and impartial justice for very modest remuneration. In that regard, several states have recently passed legislation to increase juror compensation. And others have legislative bills pending that would do so. A new report from the NCSC Center for Jury Studies documents existing and proposed juror compensation in state courts. In addition, graphics on our Comparative Data website show the gap between juror compensation and median per capita income in each state, as well as the last time jurors got a raise. These resources disclose some sobering facts. For example, the national average juror fee for the first day of service is $16.61.