Matt Welch’s experience being called for a civil jury [Reason] I, and this site, get a mention; I’ve had multiple reports of people bringing my books with them to the courthouse so as not to be picked for a jury. And I wrote for Reason about the jury selection process a while back.
More: In a followup post, Welch quotes passages from my 2003 article and confirms that, alas, the same practices are going on today, at least in New York City: the rigorous exclusion of jurors with any expertise or familiarity with difficult technical issues, and independent-minded people likely to be “thought leaders”; the avid efforts to plant preconceptions about the facts and issues of the case and extract individual “promises” of favorable votes, with no judge present; and so forth. There were hopes the round of reforms introduced by then-Chief Judge Judith Kaye some years back would clean up New York’s awful voir dire (jury selection) process, but clearly it hasn’t. Much less nonsense tends to go on in jury selection if the judge is present, and a key to the awfulness of New York voir dire — and its empowerment of lawyers — is the judge’s absence. Plus: Ilya Somin weighs in.
It’s not a new idea for reform — I suggested it as my contribution to a book fifteen years ago, it had been kicked around for decades already at that point, England has done it, and we’ve discussed it here. But the route of making progress, as befits our age of anti-discrimination, has been the piecemeal extension of so-called Batson challenges in which it is argued that lawyers used their peremptories to exclude a protected demographic group. The editorialists of the L.A. Times discuss the latest, a Ninth Circuit ruling extending the list of forbidden categories to include sexual orientation.
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]
- Melissa Kite, columnist with Britain’s Spectator, writes about her low-speed car crash and its aftermath [first, second, third, fourth]
- NYT’s Nocera lauds Keystone pipeline, gets called “global warming denier” [NYTimes] More about foundations’ campaign to throttle Alberta tar sands [Coyote] Regulations mandating insurance “disclosures” provide another way for climate change activists to stir the pot [Insurance and Technology]
- “Cop spends weeks to trick an 18-year-old into possession and sale of a gram of pot” [Frauenfelder, BB]
- Federal Circuit model order, pilot program could show way to rein in patent e-discovery [Inside Counsel, Corporate Counsel] December Congressional hearing on discovery costs [Lawyers for Civil Justice]
- Trial lawyer group working with Senate campaigns in North Dakota, Nevada, Wisconsin, Hawaii [Rob Port via LNL] President of Houston Trial Lawyers Association makes U.S. Senate bid [Chron]
- Panel selection: “Jury strikes matter” [Ron Miller, Maryland Injury]
- Law-world summaries/Seventeen syllables long/@legal_haiku (& for a similar treatment of high court cases, check out @SupremeHaiku)
In May 2001, Cheryl Jane Hale was driving four children to a sleepover in her 1987 Ford Bronco. She didn’t bother to have the children wear their seat belts, so, when she took her eyes off the road to argue with the backseat passengers, and thus drove off the road and flipped the car, 12-year-old Jesse Branham was thrown from the car and suffered brain damage. A jury in Hampton County, South Carolina (the second jury to be impaneled—the first one was dismissed in a mistrial when it was discovered after two weeks of trial that five of the jurors were former clients of Branham’s lawyers) decided that this was only 45% Hale’s fault, held Ford 55% responsible, which puts Ford entirely on the hook for $31 million in damages.
On Monday, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed because of prejudicial closing arguments that relied heavily on inadmissible evidence. More importantly for lawyers practicing in South Carolina, the Court adopted “the risk-utility test with its requirement of showing a feasible alternative design.”
How bad of a judicial hellhole is Hampton County? Though Hale was a co-defendant, she cooperated with the plaintiffs throughout the trial in their case against Ford, even sitting at the plaintiffs’ table; but because the judge classified Hale as a co-defendant, it meant that Hale got half of the peremptory challenges of the “defense.” More from Comer; no press coverage that I’ve seen yet. (cross-posted from Point of Law)
- Report: European sunscreens use superior ingredients US regulators haven’t gotten around to approving [NYT]
- Some in Pakistan want Zuckerberg executed for hosting “draw Mohammed” [Freethinker, UK]
- GM fought Clean Air Act? “Sen. Franken’s bad environmental history” [Adler/Volokh]
- Scary McChesneyite plans for federal intervention in media: FTC seems to be listening [Thierer, City Journal] FCC relations with Free Press on the skids? [Mike Riggs, Daily Caller]
- In 1978 Canada Supreme Court judicially imposed cap on noneconomic damages, world doesn’t seem to have ended for Canadian litigants [Wood, PoL]
- “Landlord victorious in Peeps trial” [Lowering the Bar, earlier]
- Who’ll wind up paying in Chinese drywall litigation? [Risk and Insurance]
- How not to get out of jury duty [Abnormal Use]
They’re felt more than ever in today’s economy, notes Amy Alkon.
- Wronged wife loses suit under California “Drug Dealer Liability Act” (DDLA) against mistress who supplied crack cocaine to husband [OnPoint News]
- “D.C. Circuit to Former Judge in Pants Lawsuit: Follow the Rules” [NLJ, more, earlier]
- “Law firm demands retailer destroy all copies of Olivia Munn comic, retailer refuses” [BoingBoing, HeavyInk, earlier on TJIC]
- Can’t find jury for tobacco trial: “Lawyers excused a woman who said people have no right to sue over diseases that are disclosed on the warning label of a package.” [Russell Jackson, Chamber-backed W.V. Record]
- Despite widespread misconception to the contrary, editing comments generally does not open blogger to liability over what remains [Citizen Media Law]
- To heck with HIPAA, introduce your patients to each other if you think they’ll get along [Musings of a Dinosaur]
- Devoted daughter vs. RSPCA: epic will contest in Britain over family farm bequest [Times Online]
- Woman found guilty after planting dead rat in meal at upscale restaurant [Appleton Post-Crescent via Lowering the Bar and Obscure Store]