Posts filed under 'Background Checks'
A defense verdict in a medical malpractice case was set aside due to a juror’s failure to disclose nine prior civil lawsuits and a criminal case in response to a written jury questionnaire. Dr. Sohail Delfani, shown smiling in this picture, is probably not very happy with his lawyers who apparently failed to do a proper background check on the venire panel during jury selection in his case. It would be really hard to miss NINE prior civil cases. Or — consider this –maybe the lawyers DID perform a background check on the juror and maybe they made a tactical decision to keep this information about the juror’s prior lawsuits to themselves to use in a motion for new trial in the event their client suffered an adverse verdict. Risky move, but there are rumors flying around these days that some law firms are employing these questionable tactics. We’ll never know. But if I were Dr. Delfani, I sure would want to know!
One thing the readers of this blog do know though, is that in 2007 it is now imperative that trial lawyers have their staff or investigators perform background checks on jurors during voir dire. There is a wealth of information readily available on the internet these days. It has been over five years since the Supreme Court of Florida approved performing background checks on jurors in Florida trials in the case of Roberts v. Tejada, 814 So.2d 334 (Fla 2002), and yet verdict after verdict is reversed on appeal or post-trial as a result of juror nondisclosure. In this case, it was some considerably outrageous concealment.
The 3rd DCA opinion itself is pretty unremarkable. There was no way the verdict could stand. The jury’s FOREMAN denied in his own handwriting on his written questionnaire that he had ever been involved in any other lawsuits or claims, even though apparently he had been involved in nine civil cases and a criminal one. See, Delfani v. Cromer, 967 So. 2d 384 (Fla 3rd DCA 2007).
November 2nd, 2007
Meet Erin – the blogging juror. Right now she is serving on a jury somewhere. Or at least she was last Tuesday and Wednesday. Erin has a blog, and she posted her thoughts about jury duty on her blog last week while she was on the jury: “yeah somebody actually put me on a jury. I guess I will probably be juror number eight, blowing everybody’s minds with charisma and excessive knowledge of forensic psychology. remember the movie? twelve angry men? god i hope i get to be the foreman of this stupid jury. MADAM FOREWOMAN OF THE JURY! i can’t wait to decide the lives and deaths of men tomorrow.” Erin refers to herself as the “oak park mastermind,” and you can read more of Erin’s thoughts about her civic service (“the stupid jury isn’t over yet”) by visiting her blog.
Erin’s blog post was sent to me last night by jury consultant, Amy Singer, who wrote “this blog post illustrates the necessity of online searching venire panelists for information.” Amy is obviously right, and this kind of stuff is happening more and more. In 2005 I started asking every panel member in every voir dire whether they have a web site, a blog, or a page on myspace, facebook or any other website. Back then not many jurors did. But that has been rapidly changing. Business week reported that in 2005 there were 40,000 new blogs popping up each day (Blogs Will Change Your Business). I’m sure the number has only increased since then. In my opinion, these questions are no longer optional in a 2007 voir dire. You can learn more about a juror from visiting their blog or their page on facebook than you can from a month’s worth of questions in the courtroom.
Vesna Jaksic, who does excellent investigative writing on jury issues for The National Law Journal, wrote a piece on blogging jurors this past March (A New Headache for Courts: Blogging Jurors). I was quoted at that time as follows: “Any lawyer who does not inquire during jury selection about a juror’s Internet presence — whether it be a Web site, a blog, an account on MySpace or an account on Match.com — hasn’t done their job.” I think Erin’s post about her jury duty proves my point. I can’t wait to see if she was the Foreperson.
October 7th, 2007
Two jurors in a personal injury case concealed their prior felony convictions during jury selection. Convicted felons are not qualified to serve as jurors in Florida pursuant to Fla. Stat. 40.013. In a lengthy well-reasoned opinion, Companioni v. City of Tampa, 32 FLWD840a (Fla 2DCA 2007), the Second District Court of Appeal reinstated a substantial jury verdict for the plaintiff because the defendant was not able to show any “actual prejudice” as a result of the felons serving on a civil jury.
Continue Reading April 1st, 2007
In jury selection we always want to know more about prospective jurors than we can sometimes ask. Political correctness, gentlemanly discretion, or sometimes just a plain old having-a-bad-day judge will preclude our ability to find out certain things about people that we would really like to know before we let them decide our client’s fate.
Continue Reading October 2nd, 2006