Outgoing Board Of Michigan ACC-A Chapter

Saturday, January 1, 2005 - 01:00

American Bar Association President Robert J. Grey Jr. last month presented Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor with the ABA American Jury Project's "Principles for Juries and Jury Trials," the result of six months of intensive work to move jury service into the 21st century, as well as to reexamine and conform the association's various sets of jury standards.

The principles have not been adopted by the ABA's House of Delegates and do not constitute policy of the association. They will be presented to the House for consideration at the Midyear Meeting in February. If adopted, they will be disseminated to jurisdictions throughout the country.

Mr. Grey noted that the principles for the first time would address the need to protect jurors' privacy throughout the course of a trial and afterward. They would clarify that jurors have a right to be questioned about only relevant subjects, to know how their information will be used, and to answer sensitive questions privately, he said.

"Parties and their agents would not be allowed to conduct surveillance of jurors - or prospective jurors - without express court permission, and cameras allowed into the courtroom could not record or transmit images of jurors' faces," Mr. Grey said."And at the end of trial, the judge should tell the jurors that they have the right to talk to anyone about the case - and the right to refuse to talk to anyone, including the lawyers and the press, and that they may ask the court's help if anyone persists in questioning them about their service over their objection."

In other areas, the principles say that juries should be made up of 12 people wherever possible; that jurors should be allowed to submit written questions to the judge that they would like to have asked of a witness; that jurors should be allowed to discuss the case they are hearing while the case is ongoing, so long as all jurors are present for the discussion; that juror pay should be improved, and jurors should be reimbursed for expenses including child care; and that jurors should be given written copies of jury instructions to take with them into deliberations.The principles also urge that employers be barred by law from firing, laying off or denying advancement opportunities to employees who must take time off work for jury service,or from requiring them to use leave or vacation time while they are serving.

Justice O'Connor is Honorary Chair of the ABA Commission on the American Jury, which is engaged in outreach activities to draw attention to the importance of serving on juries and to urge lawyers and judges to work to make jury service a better experience for those who serve.

New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye, a co-chair of the commission, released a series of bookmarks giving jurors, judges, lawyers and court personnel tips on making the jury experience better, and discussed other activities the commission will be undertaking, including initiating a Dialogue on the American Jury for lawyers and judges to take into high schools to teach students about the American jury system and engage them in dialogue about the role and importance of the jury.

The principles, copies of the bookmarks and other materials can be found online at http://www.abavideonews .org/ABA301/index.htm.