Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judge's Responsibility to Encourage Juror Civility

By John DiMotto

There is a lot of talk about the need for civility among lawyers, particularly in the courtroom during proceedings.

There is a lot of talk about the need for judges to promote decorum in the courtroom and to dignify the legal process.

There is a lot of talk about the fact that judges need to remember that they have an ethical obligation to not only maintain decorum in the courtroom but to contribute to it via their own civility.

What there is not a lot of talk about, but should be, juror civility during deliberations.

During jury selection and in our jury instructions, we tell jurors about some of the things that we expect from them. We tell them not to discuss the case among themselves before deliberation. We tell them not to discuss the case with anyone. We tell them not to do independent research via the internet, etc. There is one other thing that we should tell them, but don't often emphasize is that they need to be respectful of each other and each other's opinions during deliberations

This is not to say that jurors should give up their positions just because someone disagrees with them. However, jurors need to listen to what other jurors are saying and intelligently address what is being said. Jury deliberations should not be a free for all. They should not emulate a WWE "Raw" television show. They should not be like the rantings and ravings seen and heard on numerous evening cable network shows on CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc. Jurors should respectfully share their views and should not be obnoxious, abrasive or insulting to one another, It is the responsibility of the judge to convey this information to the jury early on, and often, during trial.

Everyone in the courtroom in every proceeding must be civil. This can be accomplished if the judge, who is in charge of the proceedings, sets the example and sets a high bar with respect to civility and decorum.

1 comment:

  1. I'm thinking of starting my own blog that simply tracks how early in the morning John gets up to offer us all these gems. I think 4:00 a.m. has to be a new record, doesn't it.

    And as for juror civility -- some recent bad experience that makes you think of that, John?