Today, the Supreme Court granted cert in Warger v. Shauers. The issue in the case is
[w]hether Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) permits a party moving for a new trial based on juror dishonest during voir dire to introduce juror testimony about statements made during deliberations that tend to show the alleged dishonesty?
This case arose out of a motor vehicle accident in which a motorcyclists collided with a truck. The motorcyclist lost his leg and then subsequently brought a negligence action against the truck driver. The jury found in favor of the truck driver.
Shortly after the trial, a juror approached plaintiff's counsel and informed him that one juror, the forewoman, refused to decide the case on the evidence submitted. This juror further informed plaintiff's counsel that the forewoman told other jurors during deliberations that her daughter had been at fault in a fatal automobile accident and that had she been sued it would have "ruined her life."
Plaintiff's counsel had the juror complete a sworn affidavit in which he detailed the actions of the forewoman. However, the trial court, citing 606(b), refused to admit the affidavit into evidence. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
Generally speaking, FRE 606(b), the juror anti-impeachment rule, prohibits the introduction of evidence concerning juror deliberations. FRE 606(b), is in place to: (1) provide verdict finality; (2) encourage jurors to freely express themselves during deliberations; and (3) reduce the amount of post-trial hounding jurors receive from attorneys. The Courts of Appeal, however, have not been uniform in their application of FRE 606(b) which is why this case has been granted cert. Hopefully, the SCT can provide the lower courts better guidance on the application of FRE 606(b).