Jenner & Block

“What Happens in the Jury Room,” Los Angeles Daily Journal

In this article, Jenner & Block Partner Paul M. Smith and Associate Ishan Bhabha analyze the Warger v. Shauers case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  The authors explain that the case concerns how closely courts can examine what takes place inside the “black box” of the jury room.  In Warger, the plaintiffs sought a new trial after receiving an unfavorable verdict, arguing that comments the jury foreperson reportedly made during deliberations showed that the foreperson had answered dishonestly during voir dire.  The district court denied the motion for a new trial, and the Eighth Circuit affirmed.  During oral argument before the Supreme Court in October, several justices observed that the prospect of reversing an unfavorable verdict would give lawyers incentive to vigorously investigate jury-room deliberations.  The authors, who filed an amicus brief in the matter on behalf of law professors, then explore the practical problems that could arise should attorneys have this avenue for trying to reverse an unfavorable verdict.