Jan 20

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D.C. Expands Categories of Jury-Demandable Cases

Last week the Council of the District of Columbia (the state-type legislature for the non-state D.C.) overrode (by a 12-1 margin) a mayoral veto of the Revised Criminal Code Act of 2022. The 450-page bill would, among other things, restore jury trials in most misdemeanor cases. (In the 1990s a prior D.C. Council abolished misdemeanor jury trials.) The overhaul of the criminal code doesn’t take effect until October 2025. It also redefines offenses and adjusts penalties, in some cases decreasing maximum allowable sentences and in other cases adding new crimes and possible sanctions that do not exist in the current code, which in part dates to 1901. It also eliminates mandatory minimum sentences for all offenses except first-degree murder and offers more people serving time in prison the opportunity to petition a judge for early release. The legislation now lays over in the Congress for 30 legislative days during which time it could be nullified by a joint resolution of the House and Senate. (Some D.C. residents say the congressional lay-over period makes D.C. home rule look like "home fool.")

DeKalb County, Georgia Citizens Frozen Out of Jury Trials for Three Months

All in-person court activity has been suspended until April 3, though there will be a variety of virtual court proceedings. The announcement was made by Chief Superior Court Judge LaTisha Dear Jackson on Wednesday evening. The closures and suspensions are due to frozen pipes that burst back in December of last year. It’s estimated that there is $3.5 million in damages (see the Atlanta Journal Constitution).

Lay Participation Trials Begin in Taiwan

This month, Taiwan launched its new trial system that includes lay participation in legal decision making, in line with the Citizen Judges Act. It is a mixed lay and professional panel, with three professional judges and six lay judges. There are promotional materials in Chinese, with the first one having English subtitles.

Minnesota Trial Judge Explains Voir Dire with Goal to Entice Jury Service

The Jur-E Bulletin regularly reports on a steady array of efforts by legal professionals to educate citizens about the importance and requirements of jury service. We now commend an article published by Duluth, Minnesota district judge Dale Harris in the Duluth News Tribune. He carefully describes the purpose and methods of voir dire. He candidly admits it can be a time-consuming process but explains its importance at arriving at a truly fair and impartial jury.

Missouri Legislators Propose Constitutional Amendment to Require 12-Person Civil Juries

Representative Jay Mosley recently introduced HJR 34 that would, among other things, require that both civil and criminal juries to be composed of no fewer than 12 jurors. The proposal, if enacted, would be up for voter approval in the November 2024 general elections. An identical bill was also introduced in the Missouri Senate.