|Members Present |
Judge Joel Medd, Chair
Judge Robert Holte
Judge Lester Ketterling
Judge Gerald Rustad
Judge Laurie Fontaine
Chair Medd called the meeting to order at 4:00 p.m. and drew attention to Attachment B (June 8, 2005) - minutes of the October 28, 2004, meeting. Staff noted that Judge Rustad was reflected as both present and absent and the minutes should be corrected to reflect that he was, in fact, present.
It was moved by Ted Gladden, seconded by Judge Ketterling, and carried that the minutes, as corrected, be approved.
Chair Medd recalled that the Committee had recommended to the Judicial Conference proposed legislation that would have removed statutory references to drawing juror names from boxes. He noted that the proposal was made in light of the present computer-driven process that provides a randomized list of names from which prospective juror names are drawn by clerk staff. He said the longstanding practice in some judicial districts of drawing names from a box simply "re-randomizes" an already random process of name selection. Nevertheless, he said, the Judicial Conference declined to approve the proposed legislation for introduction. Ted Gladden said time was short at the Conference meeting and the proposal did not receive the consideration and discussion it should have. He encouraged the Committee to revisit the issue, perhaps after an effort to more thoroughly inform judges about the current process and its benefits. Judge Rustad observed that Conference members likely appreciate the randomness of the computerized selection process, but that process may have been perceived as lacking the public showing of a random selection of names. He said there was a sense that jurors appreciate seeing their names drawn as opposed to court staff simply explaining that names were drawn beforehand from a randomized list.
Chair Medd noted that the Committee had also recommended proposed legislation regarding selection of prospective jurors from within other counties in a judicial district. He said the proposal was approved by the Judicial Conference and was ultimately enacted in Senate Bill 2104 [Attachment C (June 8, 2005)].
Juror Security/Confidentiality - Use of Questionnaires
At the request of Chair Medd, staff briefly summarized Attachment D (June 8, 2005) - a compilation of recent press releases and information concerning juror privacy issues. He noted that the Committee has been discussing for some time whether and how to address issues such as access to personal identifying information of jurors, restricting access to other kinds of juror information, and juror concern for personal safety.
Judge Rustad drew attention to the first press release in Attachment D, which summarizes a report of the New York City Bar Association. The report, he noted, concluded that it is unconstitutional to deny media access to voir dire proceedings or information about jurors post-verdict.
Committee members then reviewed revisions to the juror qualification questionnaire. Staff noted the Committee had previously approved revisions that would essentially separate the questionnaire into two parts: a part containing the statutorily required qualification factors and a part requesting personal juror information for administrative use by the courts. He said the tentative conclusion was that the "administrative"portion would not be provided to lawyers or the general public.
Judge Medd observed that many times, before a case even starts, attorneys will obtain from clerk staff the juror qualification questionnaires, which currently contain personal information beyond what is needed for qualification purposes. He said the judge in the case generally will not have had the opportunity to determine the scope of information to be released.
Deb Simenson noted that it is not unusual for juror questionnaires to be circulated within attorney offices and when returned to the clerk's office the questionnaires will have notations concerning the particular juror.
Judge Medd said that in two recent civil cases juror exit questionnaires indicated that 4 out of 9 jurors on a 9-person jury and 4 out of 6 jurors on a 6-person jury indicated some level of concern about their security and privacy.
Ted Gladden observed that the judicial system has a responsibility to jurors to safeguard personal information as much as possible.
Judge Holte asked what the response would be if an attorney solicits personal information in court. Judge Medd responded that the judge may then have some control over the kind of information that could be made public in exceptional cases.
Robin Huseby said she had heard from numerous jurors who were fearful about serving in particular cases. She noted the possible alternative of asking prospective jurors questions in chambers.
Staff recalled that a National Center for State Courts report previously reviewed by the Committee suggested that routine personal information required by the court for essentially administrative purposes should not, absent compelling reasons, be available to attorneys and the general public.
Judge Medd observed that another important factor is the desire by the media for access to juror information. Staff noted that information in Attachment D summarizing court decisions indicates there is a fairly significant obstacle to barring public and press access to juror information. Judge Rustad said trials are generally open proceedings and the press is free to attend. The court, he said, likely is not required to feed information to the press.
With respect to the next step in approving the changes to the juror qualification questionnaire, Ted Gladden said comments could be solicited and then considered by the Committee. Staff noted that under state law the state court administrator is responsible for approving the qualification form.
Judge Rustad wondered whether absolute uniformity in the information solicited is necessary. He said there may be good reasons why questions asked of jurors in Watford City, for example, would be different from questions asked of jurors in Fargo.
After further discussion, Committee members agreed the Committee Chair should distribute the revised questionnaire, along with a general summary of the Committee's discussion of privacy and safety issues, to the state bar, media representatives, and other interested parties. Any comments received will be assembled for Committee review.
ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials
Chair Medd next drew attention to Attachment E (June 8, 2005) - a Jury News article and the recently adopted ABA Principles for Juries and Jury Trials. He noted there have been recent discussions in ABA committees about concerns related to the size of juries and unanimous verdicts. Ted Gladden observed that Principle 7 relating to juror privacy is relevant to the Committee's previous discussion. He suggested there may be some benefit in reviewing the current standards for juror use and management contained in Administrative Rule 9 in light of the ABA Principles.
Committee members agreed the ABA Principles should be reviewed in greater detail at the next meeting.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:10 p.m.
Jim Ganje, Staff