Palm Beach County Law Blog
I’ve been meaning to start this blog – which I am calling the “Palm Beach County Law Blog” – for over a year. Due to the everyday time constraints of a law practice, and then devoting any extra time to my family and myself, one’s time is limited. But starting today, and for the foreseeable future, I’m going to make an attempt to write down a few paragraphs each week on topics of interest in the areas of the law that I practice. I will attempt (but may not always be successful) to refrain from offering any personal opinions because the purpose of the blog is not to encourage debate but rather to simply be informative. Certainly, however, I welcome any comments or questions on the posts that are made and any feedback from readers on how I can improve the blog.
A jury trial is a guaranteed right under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 1, § 22 of the Florida Constitution. Nothing more undermines this right, however, than when a juror or jurors – in violation of the court’s instructions – do their own research on the facts, the law or the attorneys for the parties. I recently happened to be at the courthouse one morning for a hearing in one of my own cases and then decided to stick around for closing arguments in a personal injury case. That case had apparently been going on for over a week and after closing arguments that morning the jury was to receive the case and begin deliberations. An attorney who was not representing any of the parties in the personal injury case, but who happened to be in the courthouse coffee shop, overhead three jurors in the personal injury case discussing the case and whom among the lawyers trying the case were “board-certified.” The lawyer told the lawyers trying the personal injury case what he heard and these lawyers then brought it to the attention of the trial judge. The judge then questioned all of the jurors under oath and found out that not only had one of the jurors been doing his own Internet research on the lawyers the night before, but that there was some indication some (if not all) of the jurors had taken an informal poll of how they were going to decide the case before the case was even over. The end result, of course, was that the judge had to declare a mistrial. Imagine being selected to serve on a jury – a sacrifice equal to or just below that of serving our country during a time of war – and after a week or two of patient attention to sometimes boring lawyers and monotonous testimony, the judge declares a mistrial because of something another juror did. You would not be happy. Please keep in mind the above anecdote if you’re ever called to jury duty.