Post Trial Juror Interviews Just Got Easier

 In Law Planet

hand writingHow many times have we had potential jurors lie or misstate answers to clear voir dire questions in order to sit on a jury? We recently saw the effects of such efforts in the criminal DUI case involving billionaire John Goodman. The lying juror was sentenced to jail for his behavior. Why do people sometimes go out of their way to avoid or dodge clear questions regarding their eligibility to sit on a jury? It is hard to fathom why, but the process for conducting civil post-trial juror interviews just got easier with the recent Florida 4th District Court of Appeals (DCA) decision of Pembroke Lakes Mall, Ltd. V. McGruder. Although the opinion is focusing primarily on Florida’s slip and fall statute, there is great reading on the process and procedure to be used when we catch jurors lying during voir dire.

In order to be eligible to conduct post-trial interviews of jurors, one must satisfy the De La Rosa 3-prong test. Named after the Florida Supreme Court decision of De La Rosa v. Zequeira; the concealed information must be as follows:

  1. relevant and material to jury service
  2. concealed during voir dire
  3. the failure to disclose the information was not attributable to the complaining party’s lack of diligence

 In the Pembroke Mall, Ltd. case, several jurors failed to disclose prior litigation. Unbelievably, one juror who answered no to a written jury question provided by the trial judge had actually been involved in multiple cases. Using Westlaw printouts and information from the Broward County Clerk  of the Court’s website, the lawyers were able to demonstrate that several jurors sitting on the panel had lied about prior litigation. Under these circumstances, it was error for the trial judge to have denied the motion for juror interviews. Of interest, the trial judge denied the motion for juror interviews without conducting a hearing. The opinion mentions that the Florida civil rule of procedure (1.431(h)) contemplates notice and hearing and as such, the trial judge should not have ruled on the motion without a hearing. This is good reading for all trial lawyers. It should also be in everyone’s trial notebook.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Jeroen van Oostrom

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