This Essay argues that prosecutors should not allow grand juries to consider indicting defendants whom the prosecutors themselves believe should not be indicted. To illustrate the problems with this practice, this Essay uses the example of St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch – who encouraged deliberations by the grand jury that heard evidence concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, despite personally believing that Brown’s killer, police officer Darren Wilson, should not be indicted. The arguments against allowing grand juries to conduct such needless deliberations include (1) the exercise wastes the time of citizens forced to serve on grand juries; (2) the deliberations might, despite the prosecutor’s wishes, result in indictments contrary to the interests of justice; and (3) by “passing the buck” to the grand jury, the prosecutor evades accountability for his own decisions.
Previous research shows that clients of public defenders are not necessarily more likely to be convicted than those who hire private attorneys, but this work largely reflects cases adjudicated through plea bargains. Little attention has been devoted to how the context of a trial shapes outcomes across defendants with private and public defense counsel. In this paper, I outline how disparities in resources and differences in courtroom roles may put public defenders at a distinct disadvantage in cases adjudicated through trial, leading to higher rates of trial conviction among indigent defendants. Then, I explore this using data from an NCSC study of 314 felony jury trials in four urban jurisdictions. The data include both the jury’s verdict as well as the judge’s evaluation of the defendant’s guilt, which permit comparison of jury verdicts with probable bench verdicts. I find that judges’ evaluations of defendant guilt do not differ across type of counsel, but defendants who rely on public defenders about twice as likely to be convicted by the jury compared to those who hire private attorneys. And, among defendants who would have been convicted by the judge, those who have a private attorney are nearly 2.7 times as likely to be acquitted by the jury. These disparities are not explained by differences in case characteristics, amount of evidence presented at trial, and evaluations of attorney skill. I conclude by urging further research to examine the mechanisms through which indigent defendants may be disadvantaged in jury trials.
This paper examines empirically why sophisticated parties in some merger and acquisition deals choose to waive their right to jury trials and some do not. We examine merger agreements for a large sample of 276 deals for the 11-year period 2001 to 2011. We exclude private company deals and those where the choice of forum and law is Delaware. First, we find that 48.2% of the deals have jury waiver clauses. Second, we find that deals in which New York is chosen as the governing law and forum state are more likely to include a jury waiver clause. No other state has such an effect. Third, we find that contracts negotiated by counsel from high reputation law firms tend to include jury waiver clauses, and this effect is more significant for the acquirer’s law firm than for the target’s law firm. Fourth, we find strong evidence for the bargaining power hypothesis wherein larger acquirers that take over smaller targets are more likely to include jurywaiver clauses. Finally, we find no evidence that lawyer familiarity, industry-effects, whether the acquirer was an international firm, or whether the deal was completed has a statistically significant impact on the likelihood of having a jury waiver clause.
How much participation should a procedurally just court system offer litigants? This question has always been especially difficult to answer in complex litigation such as class actions and mass torts because these cases involve so many litigants that it would be impossible for each of them to be afforded the kind of individualized hearing that we associate with the day in court ideal. To address the problem, we need to go back to first principles and ask what purposes participation in litigation is meant to serve. Participation serves two purposes: as a predicate to litigant consent and to engage public reason. This Article, written for the Clifford Symposium honoring Judge Jack Weinstein, argues that the public reason rationale offers the best normative underpinning for participation in large-scale litigation and demonstrates how public reason can be realized through procedural innovations such as those Judge Weinstein has pioneered.
In the United States, voir dire is viewed as essential to selecting an impartial jury. Judges, lawyers, and the public fervently believe that a fair trial depends on distinguishing between prospective jurors who are impartial and those who are not. However, in England, Australia, and Canada, there are impartial jury trials without voir dire. This article challenges the assumption that prospective jurors enter the courtroom as either impartial or partial and that voir dire will reveal the impartial ones. Though voir dire fails as an “impartiality detector,” this article explores how voir dire contributes to the trial process in two critical, but unacknowledged, ways. First, voir dire helps to transform “reluctant citizens,” who might have biases into “responsible jurors,” who are able to perform their role impartially. Second, voir dire lays the foundation for the judge-jury relationship, which is aided by other practices during and even after the trial.
In 1993, Justice Doherty of the Ontario Court of Appeal crafted what was perhaps the most significant decision on racism in the Canadian criminal justice system of that decade. The twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking decision in Parks offers an opportune moment to review the case law on challenges for cause to determine to what extent we have advanced the discussion on racism in criminal justice. Are we now more likely to recognize and respond to the harm of racial prejudice in the criminal trials of racialized accused? Have understandings of racism become more sophisticated and nuanced in the context of challenges for cause? In particular, how has the Parks question evolved to reflect the complex and elusive forms of contemporary prejudice in Canada, including subconscious racism? In this article, I argue that the progress we have made in examining the racial prejudices of prospective jurors has been negligible. While some individual judges have engaged in thoughtful and insightful analyses, the vast majority do not grapple with the insidiousness of racism in any meaningful way and reject attempts to deepen the inquiry.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 creates several new offences relating to juror misconduct, which have generally been considered pragmatic responses to the immediate problem of jurors using the internet to find additional "evidence." Taking as its starting point the possibility of jury studies being written from an "interdisciplinary" perspective situated between mainstream legal scholarship and legal history, this article argues that after the practical abolition of juror punishment in 1670 the judge-jury relationship has usually been focused on juror guidance, not on juror punishment. This has had important consequences for the institution’s civic function, meaning any move in the direction of juror punishment has to be considered not simply as a pragmatic response to an immediate, isolated problem, but also as an important part of the jury’s continuing history as a political institution.
Despite the importance of damage awards, juries are often at sea about the amounts that should be awarded, with widely differing awards for cases that seem comparable. We tested a new model of damage award decision making by systematically varying the size, context, and meaningfulness of numerical comparisons or anchors. As a result, we were able to elicit large differences in award amounts that replicated for 2 different cases. Although even arbitrary dollar amounts (unrelated to the cases) influenced the size of award judgments, the most consistent effects of numerical anchors were achieved when the amounts were meaningful in the sense that they conveyed the gist of numbers as small or large. Consistent with the model, the ordinal gist of the severity of plaintiff’s damages and defendant’s liability predicted damage awards, controlling for other factors such as motivation for the award-judgment task and perceived economic damages. Contrary to traditional dual-process approaches, numeracy and cognitive style (e.g., need for cognition and cognitive reflection) were not significant predictors of these numerical judgments, but they were associated with lower levels of variability once the gist of the judgments was taken into account. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.
In 1949, the leadership of the American Communist Party was put on trial for allegedly conspiring to teach the overthrow of the American government. The case, known as the Dennis trial, is a major part of American political and Cold War history. One of the rarely-discussed aspects of the case, however, is that the defendants argued that the jury was stacked against them: it would be composed almost exclusively of wealthy white men. The defendants' claim of jury discrimination was denied, but it can be seen as a vital step towards reforming New York's "Blue Ribbon Panel" system of jury selection, eventual Congressional legislation to end bias in jury selection, and the slow recognition by the Supreme Court that jury discrimination was more pervasive than previously thought. This Article is the first scholarly effort to explain the nature of the jury challenge in Dennis and situate the defendants' failure as part of a larger narrative of discrimination and injustice. Section II of this Article provides background on the case and establishes its importance as one of the most significant political trials of the twentieth century. Section III traces the evolution of Supreme Court jurisprudence on jury discrimination prior to the Dennis case. Section IV explains the peculiar "Blue Ribbon Panel" system of jury selection used in New York at the time for cases seen by the court system as especially serious or important. Section V dives into the heart of the Dennis defendants' claim that a skewed selection process would result in a jury that was almost wholly white, male, and upper-class. Last, Section VI discusses the aftermath of the Dennis trial and its importance both historically and legally.
The last few decades have seen several scholars and courts striving to understand the meaning of the reasonable doubt standard and, in particular, to produce instructions that would enlighten jurors in this regard. The focus has been on defining the standard as a threshold indicating the quality and quantity of evidence sufficient for a finding of fact, or the degree of confidence that the fact finder should have before convicting. The results of these endeavours have not been satisfactory and nowadays it is still frequent that juries ask the court for clarification on the meaning of the standard. This paper argues that the reasonable doubt standard is better conceived and explained to the jury as requiring a particular method of reasoning, rather than merely a threshold. A direct explanation of the threshold is elusive and potentially encroaches on the fact finder’s role. Reference to a method of reasoning instead promises to provide useful directions to the jury which promote compliance with the threshold itself. The paper advances methodological directives inspired by works in philosophy of the mind and virtue epistemology. The paper then concludes with practical recommendations for devising a new instruction on the standard of proof.