Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), the sponsor of a bill in the California legislature, thinks jury service would help advance the assimilation of immigrants by exposing them to an important civic process. Ben Boychuk, at City Journal, doesn’t agree, quoting political scientist Edward Erler: “The idea that legal immigrants can learn to become citizens through jury service is a dangerous experiment on the liberties of American citizens.”
A man who showed up at court in Springfield, Mass. to deal with a traffic ticket mistakenly wound up on a jury. The jury proceeded to hear the evidence and closing statements and convict the defendant; the judge declared a mistrial after it emerged that the man, who spoke limited English, had gotten on to the panel by accident. [MassLive]
The blogosphere has been kicking around that question this week, and I add my own views at Cato at Liberty (& Alkon).
Defenders of the government’s aggressive prosecutions under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act are finding more and more to be defensive about. The latest in the string of setbacks for the Department of Justice came Monday, when a jury acquitted two defendants in the Justice Department’s 2009 Gabon “sting” operation and the case against three others ended in a mistrial. Alison Frankel: “So far, the Justice Department has not managed to convict a single Gabon sting defendant who contested its charges.” [WaPo, WSJ blog and related, earlier]
More: “A Guest Post From The Africa Sting Jury Foreman” [FCPA Professor]
New Michigan rules allow juries to ask questions and judges to summarize evidence for their benefit. Michigan Chief Justice (and Overlawyered favorite) Robert Young Jr. “says jurors will no longer be treated like kindergarteners” under the new rules. [ABA Journal; my take back when]
“The tree trunks, exposed banks and other hazards whizzing past represent a cornucopia of potential tort suits under U.S. law, yet somehow the Swiss manage to operate these runs without being sued into oblivion.” Dan Fisher at Forbes has a go at explaining why. More: Bill Childs, TortsProf (many U.S. states relatively protective of winter sports providers).
Kevin at Lowering the Bar points out that the suit we reported on yesterday doesn’t actually carry the highest damages demand ever; it is topped by one man’s suit last year against Bank of America for 1.7 septillion dollars. In third place — maybe — is “a claim for three quadrillion and change filed by someone against the federal government after Hurricane Katrina.”
Meanwhile, the story of the $38 quadrillion lawsuit moves Adam Freedman at Ricochet to consider some perhaps drastic legal reform remedies.
They’re felt more than ever in today’s economy, notes Amy Alkon.
Regarding “That nice Mr. Smith does not have to pay this personally, does he?“, Australian correspondent Malcolm Park writes:
“One of my favorites regarding the jury’s generosity/magnanimity when dealing with someone else’s money is from Fred Shapiro’s Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations (1993) page 106 quoting Samuel P. Sears, ‘In Defense of the Defense’, 25 Insurance Counsel Journal 428 at 429 (1958):
We have a judge in Boston named Donahue, who is indeed brilliant, but a character. A couple of years ago, a jury case was being tried before him, a personal injury case, and the jury sent a note in to him with a question asking if, even though there was not any liability, could they still give the plaintiff some money. The judge sent for the jury. He said to them, “I have your written question, and I assume from the question that you have found there is no liability.” The foreman said, “That is so, Your Honor.” He said, “All right, sign this slip then.”
After they had signed the slip, which directed a verdict for the defendant, he said, “I will now answer your question. You may retire to the jury room and pass the hat.”
“Two thirds of jurors sitting in British courts fail to understand what a judge tells them about important aspects of the law, risking serious miscarriages of justice, a study [based on 69,000 verdicts] concludes.” One possible response is a greater shift to written instructions from judges. [Telegraph] Among other conclusions of the Ministry of Justice study: “all-white juries do not discriminate against black defendants” and “men sitting on juries are less likely than women to listen to arguments and change their minds.” [Times Online]