Congress Asked to Update Jury Stipends and Summoning in D.C.
Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Delegate to Congress, last week introduced the “District of Columbia Courts Improvement Act of 2022” (H.R. 6747). Among other things, the bill would:
- Raise daily juror stipends to $50 (with an additional $10 fee after a tenth trial day).
- Authorize one-step jury summoning and qualifying to be done electronically. (Currently, the D.C. statutory code authorizes summoning only by U.S. Mail.)
- Allow persons 70 years of age or older to opt out of jury service.
These policy proposals are made in the U.S. Congress because it has exclusive legislative authority over the organization and jurisdiction of District of Columbia courts. When, in 1974, Congress created a “home rule” government for the District, it barred the new, elected local government from involvement in court improvements—to the disappointment of many Washington citizens.
Maxwell Lawyers Lose Battle to Subpoena Media Outlets About Juror Misconduct
On January 7, the Jur-E Bulletin reported that Ghislaine Maxwell’s defense team wanted the court to hear from various news media who interviewed former trial jurors on the claim they disclosed relevant details about their final deliberations. U.S. News now reports Judge Alison J. Nathan issued a partially redacted order denying the request saying, “The Court denies these requests as vexatious, intrusive, unjustified, and a fishing expedition.” She said it was “procedurally improper” for Maxwell's attorneys to subpoena social media companies for records. The judge will allow questioning of “Juror 50” regarding his exposure to sexual abuse as a child. In making that ruling, she stated, “To be clear, the potential impropriety is not that someone with a history of sexual abuse may have served on the jury. Rather, it is the potential failure to respond truthfully to questions during the jury selection process that asked for that material information so that any potential bias could be explored.”
Courtroom Cameras Allowed for Jussie Smollett’s Sentencing
The Chicago Tribune reports Judge James Linn adjusted his prior ruling disallowing video coverage of the actor’s jury trial. (News cameras are not allowed in Cook County courtrooms except by explicit permission from the judge.) After the jury found Smollett guilty of several felony charges, sentencing is scheduled for March 10. Looking forward to that date, the prosecution urged the sentencing to be televised saying, “This case is of critical importance to the public—it developed not only local but worldwide interest.” Over the objection of the defendant, Judge Linn sided with prosecutor’s argument.
Judge Hears Juror Misconduct Claims in Scott Peterson Case
Numerous news outlets from coast to coast are reporting about the court hearing held on multiple days in California where a former juror is grilled about hiding the fact she was a domestic abuse victim during voir dire and about her later co-authoring a tell-all book about the case. During the hearing, juror Richelle Nice resisted claims she took steps to be a juror on the notorious murder trial to gain personal notoriety. We learn, for example, from ABC 10 in Sacramento and the New York Post that Peterson's attorneys want to call to the witness stand three former fellow jurors, a co-author of "We the Jury" (a book written by Nice and six other jurors), filmmakers who captured scenes from Nice’s home suggesting she was fixated on the case, and a People magazine reporter who wrote a story based on the 17 letters Nice wrote to Peterson after his conviction and the eight letters Peterson wrote to Nice.
ABOTA Hosting “Dismissed with Prejudice”
The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has opened attendance access to non-ABOTA members when it convenes a half-day program on May 12 in Chicago to address “race and the trial of civil cases.” Registration cost is a modest $50. However, it is a live, in-person program. One can register here.