Morning Links

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012
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31 Responses to “Morning Links”

  1. #1 |  Burgers Allday | 

    if there’s a point to having a jury trial if the judge can then overrule the jury’s decision

    Actually this is a good practice. For several reasons, mostly subtle.

    One major reason is that it shows that the judge is not deciding to decide the case herself in order to spare the time, expense and effort of a jury trial. There is a lot of pressure on judges to do summary judgment type adjudications (that is, judge decides and no jury trial) in all civil, and at least some criminal trials). But, the problem is that an aggreived party in a summary judgment case will feel robbed of her “day in court” and will even begin to attribute the adverse decision to illegitimate concerns about judicial economy.

    With a judge overruling a jury after a full trial (in federal practice this is called a JNOV — forgot the underlying Latin), nobody can say that the judge was just trying to get out early and go to her golf game.

    Also, no one can say that the judge was afraid to hand the case to a jury because she was afraid of what the jury would try to decide.

    This isn’t the only reason JNOV’s are good (in some cases). But it is a reason that even non-lawyers can understand without having been through a bunch of litigations themselves personally.

    Caveats: There are still many, many cases that are more appropriate for summary adjudication, as contrasted with JNOV type decisionmaking. There are also many, many cases where the jury’s verdic should stand and the judge should decline JNOV (even in many caes where the judge personally disagrees with the verdict, the judge should still decline JNOV). It is a rich tapestry. Smart people spend their whole careers teaching and writing about these civil procedure issues in gr8 depth — perhaps too much depth, really, when you start trying to read it all.

  2. #2 |  Cyto | 

    I was surprised to learn that a judge can overrule a jury’s acquittal. That really seems to go against what I thought was a constitutional right to a “trial by a jury of your peers”.

    I can completely understand the ability of a judge to overrule a conviction – it is a limit on the power of the state after all. But what’s the point of having the jury if the judge can still toss you in jail after they find you not guilty?

    That said, I would really like to know how the jury managed to arrive at their verdict when confronted with a video tape that contradicts the defense story.

  3. #3 |  ClubMedSux | 

    There has to be more to this story. I mean, I really hope there’s more to this story.

    When I was in college in northwest Indiana, I decided to visit a friend in New Jersey over spring break. While driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in drizzling rain, my car suddenly hydroplaned and skidded off the road. The car rolled over 360° and would end up being totaled, but miraculously both my passenger and I were able to walk away with just some minor cuts and scrapes.

    When the police came, after calling a tow truck and making sure we’re okay, the police officer gave me a ticket for driving unsafe for conditions. When I looked at him in disbelief, he told me, “You should feel lucky. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to slip these under people’s hospital pillows.”

  4. #4 |  Cyto | 

    The federal judge ruled in favor of Sawyer and ordered a new trial to determine damages.

    Ah-ha. Missed it the first time through. This was a civil case, not a criminal case. With all the talk of assault charges and excessive force I thought this was a criminal trial.

  5. #5 |  DarkEFang | 

    It’s amazing just how often completely unarmed people with no history of violence will just go bananas and assault uniformed police officers who are sitting and minding their own business.

  6. #6 |  MRK | 

    I think its better for the country in the long term to have the jury reach an unpopular verdict and let a riot ensure.

    I certainly don’t like the idea of being found innocent by a jury of my peers and the judge decides that the jury got it wrong. The system is already heavily stacked against you.

  7. #7 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @2:

    It looks like this was civil case (although the linked article could stand to be clearer).

    *********************************************

    By the way, I do a blog on civil cases involving police officers. More specifically, its focus is on civil cases based on Fourth Amendment rights where the policeman claims qualified immunity. I am not relly what you would call an anti-excessive-force guy, so much as I am an anti-police-lying guy. It is these 4aqi cases that really strain the old credulity time and time again. At least in beating cases, the true facts are often known and agreed upon. I get less fuffed when a bad decision is, at least, honestly arrived at.

    police4aqi.wordpress.com

  8. #8 |  nigmalg | 

    RE: TSA Funding

    Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) said the $315 million in funding would otherwise come from taxpayers and argued it is better to stick passengers who rely on TSA with the bill.

    They’re technically right. The fees for the TSA should come from the passengers using the services, not the general fund. I’ve already voted with my wallet and made the decision to avoid air travel. I shouldn’t have to support them. When a ticket costs an average of $2,000 with a free groping, maybe people will wake the fuck up.

  9. #9 |  David | 

    Civil trial, different rules.

    I would fucking love to hear the jury explain their decision, though.

  10. #10 |  Burgers Allday | 

    I would fucking love to hear the jury explain their decision, though.

    Usually the policeman says that the suspect was spitting.

    In other cases, the policeman says:

    “It is surprisingly easy to get beaten to death by somebody’s bare hands, so had to forestall that.”

    In fact, just last week there was an Oklahoma case where an unarmed young man was apparently trying to keep a visiting corrections officer out of his house. He ended up fist-fighting, or wrestling, with the corrections officer and took the corrections officer’s gun and shot and killed the corrections officer with it.

    I think he has been accused of murder for doing that, but has not yet been allowed to tell his side of the story.

  11. #11 |  MRK | 

    Personally I think Civil damages or in a criminal case is BS. Financially ruining someone via a civil trial combined with a criminal trial is no different than double jeopardy in my mind.

    Perhaps the jury box was filled with people like me and they went for jury nullification.

  12. #12 |  Vic Kelley | 

    re “But for the video…”

    I still don’t understand why law enforcement feel the freedom to beat and torture people…oh wait a minute it’s because they face almost no consequences whatsoever. That jury has earned my contempt just as that judge has earned my respect he was brave to rule as he did.

  13. #13 |  Yizmo Gizmo | 

    •TSA/You may soon be paying twice as much for the privilege of getting groped.

    Look, if I’m going to have to pay any more, groping just isn’t going to suffice. That’s just a tease. I want some head. At least these worthless goons will be accomplishing something–after all, isn’t “comfort” a big
    part of “security”?

  14. #14 |  RBS | 

    #3 Same thing happened to me outside of Spartanburg, SC a few years ago, well except it was just me and my car wasn’t totaled. He got me for “too fast for conditions.” When I asked him how he could possibly know how fast I was going when he got to my car about 2 hours after my wreck he just said “because you spun off the road” and the lectured me for about 20 minutes.

  15. #15 |  Pablo | 

    In a criminal trial, a judge can overrule the jury’s verdict of guilty and enter an acquital if the facts justify doing such. Im not aware of, and cannot imagine that in any jurisdiction in America a judge can overrule an acquital and enter a conviction. Please let me know if Im mistaken.

  16. #16 |  Burgers Allday | 

    In a criminal trial, a judge can overrule the jury’s verdict of guilty and enter an acquital if the facts justify doing such. Im not aware of, and cannot imagine that in any jurisdiction in America a judge can overrule an acquital and enter a conviction. Please let me know if Im mistaken.

    That does not seem to be case in the linked article.

    Still, what you say is generally true.

    However, in criminal cases where there is no right to jury trial in the first place then it could probably happen. For example, if the maximum punishment is, or is stipulated to be, low enough then there is no right to jury trial in a criminal case. A judge could probably empanel an advisory jury, have it decide and then ignore the advisory verdict.

    As another example, imagine that the defendant waived her right to a jury trial (in a case where she had that right), but the judge empaneled a jury anyway, and then, later, decided to go against the jury’s recommended acquittal verdict before entering final judgment in the form of a conviction. That might work.

    Of course, the cases that are interesting would be where a judge did not indicate that she considered the jury as merely advisory until after they “acquitted.” I don’t know if a case like that has happened, but it would be interesting to read if it has.

    This stuff gets complicated. Even the “Simple Justice” blog (which is generally good and written by an actual defense atty) is sometimes guilty of gross oversimplification of the rules, as it was this week when it announced that there is no such thing as interlocutory appeal in a criminal litigation. That is a nice, easy-to-remember rule. It is also wrong more than it is right.

  17. #17 |  Juice | 

    If it’s a civil suit, how does it not violate the 7th amendment?

    In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    Isn’t the judge re-examining the facts tried by a jury?

    Is it the last little weasel phrase loophole at the end that says “unless the rules say you can”?

    Again, the results came out better, but it seems like an odd power for a judge to have.

  18. #18 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @17:

    Shortish answer:

    judges can overturn juries “on the facts” or “on the law.” The standard for overturning the jury “on the law” is relatively permissive. The standard for overturning the jury verdict “on the facts,” is generally less permissive.

    I haven’t read what the judge’s opinion, but it probably says that everybody agrees with what the facts are here (because of the video — those are the facts), and that he is overturning the verdict not on factual grounds, but legal ones. The decision probably says that the jury fell down by not understanding what the operative legal standards meant. If my guess ids correct, then that would not be a “fact tried” that the judge’s decision reversed.

  19. #19 |  Bob | 

    Burgers:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judgment_notwithstanding_verdict

    It’s judgement non obstante veredicto

    And now we know, and knowing is half the battle!

  20. #20 |  Juice | 

    #18,

    judges can overturn juries “on the facts”

    Even when the 7th amendment says they cant?

  21. #21 |  Jim | 

    Silly serfs, invoking the Constitution!

  22. #22 |  Deoxy | 

    And now we know, and knowing is half the battle!

    The other half is violence.

    I particularly using those 2 lines when someone says “Violence never solves anything.”

    When I asked him how he could possibly know how fast I was going when he got to my car about 2 hours after my wreck he just said “because you spun off the road”

    That’s actually absolutely correct – if an event happens to you (massive flooding that takes you off the road, for instance), not your fault, but if you moved in to the water at a rate of speed that resulted in you spinning off the road, then yes, you were going too fast. The water was still – you were the actor.

    When the police came, after calling a tow truck and making sure we’re okay, the police officer gave me a ticket for driving unsafe for conditions. When I looked at him in disbelief, he told me, “You should feel lucky. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to slip these under people’s hospital pillows.”

    Now see, THAT is just plain arrogant asshole behaviour. The point of those tickets is to prevent the action in question, not raise revenue – giving a ticket to someone who got lucky and didn’t get hurt is almost exactly the time you SHOULD give a ticket (for the purpose I gave, anyway) – when they’re injured so badly that they’re in the hospital, the only reason left to give them a ticket is revenue generation.

    Well, that, and bureaucratic “driving history” kinds of things, I suppose, but I don’t put much value in that, at least for it’s own sake.

  23. #23 |  croaker | 

    No, no more to the story. The cop was being a dick in his own way, no less so than that NYPD “mission from God” jackass that threatened to shove his gun up someone’s ass.

    This doesn’t exactly help community relations, and with any luck the sherrif is up for election and will have to explain himself more precisely on this issue.

  24. #24 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @20:

    On its face, the amendment says that judges can overturn juries on fact issues so long as that is done in accordance with the common law.

    I am no Seventh Amendment expert, but my guess (and it is just a guess) is that the relatively restrictive standards for judges overturning jury verdicts on fact issues in civil cases ultimately derives from, and is considered consistent with, common law practice of 1791 (which is generally the time frame used for 7A issues).

    Since people here are suddenly interested in JNOV’s (which sudden interest is weird to me), one of the main hurdles is a procedural hurdle, rather than a Constitutional one. Secifically, in Federal Court, a party must ask for the JNOV before the jury trial occurs. Strategically, this can be a bit of a poison pill. You, as an adversarial litigant, are telling your opponent that you think you might lose the jury trial. You also reveal a bit of info about WHY you are worried that you may lose. Don’t get me wrong, parties make timely (that is, pre-trial) motions for JNOV all the time, but the practice is not as common in federal court as it probably would be if you could wait until you lost the jury trial to make that motion.

  25. #25 |  Steve Verdon | 

    It’s amazing just how often completely unarmed people with no history of violence will just go bananas and assault uniformed police officers who are sitting and minding their own business.

    Troll or sarcasm….troll or sarcasm…crap I can’t tell anymore. :(

  26. #26 |  Burgers Allday | 

    @16:

    Here is another variation where I am not sure what would happen:

    Imagine that the defendant is simultaneous charged with two crimes arising from the same transaction. Let’s say the two crimes are misdeanor assault (with a one day in jail max penalty) and felony assault (with a 5 years in jail max penalty).

    The felony charge would seem to invoke the right to jury trial, so there is a jury trial. The jury acquits on both charges. Can the judge still convict on the misdemeanor assault charge on the theory that there was no right to jury trial on the misdemeanor assault charge and that the jury’s verdict on that particular charge was advisory (and therefore not a final judgment on that charge)?

    My gut says, “no,” that can’t happen, but I am not sure why it can’t.

    Probably giving Dunphy bad ideas here . . .

  27. #27 |  Dana Gower | 

    @22

    (G)iving a ticket to someone who got lucky and didn’t get hurt is almost exactly the time you SHOULD give a ticket (for the purpose I gave, anyway) – when they’re injured so badly that they’re in the hospital, the only reason left to give them a ticket is revenue generation.

    I am somewhat torn on this. Regardless of how you feel about DUI laws, should a person who is legitimately over the limit, but who causes no accident, be ticketed, but a person who ends up in a horrible accident (but injures no one but himself) not be?

  28. #28 |  John P. | 

    At the bottom of the Palm Beach Deputy Article, did anyone see this:

    “User comments are not being accepted on this article.”

    I find it interesting that more and more articles on local newspaper and TV station websites detailing acts like this by our cops. Are subjected to the editors choosing to not allow commits to them.

    I find that VERY telling….

  29. #29 |  Leon Wolfeson | 

    @26 – Yea, that’s one of the many problems with overcharging. I can’t see, in many cases, how it doesn’t amount to double jeopardy. They are, quite literally, charging someone with multiple offences for *exactly* the same actions.

    I can understand that if there are different elements to the crime (like conspiracy) how you can have multiple charges, but in this case…

  30. #30 |  Deoxy | 

    Regardless of how you feel about DUI laws, should a person who is legitimately over the limit, but who causes no accident, be ticketed, but a person who ends up in a horrible accident (but injures no one but himself) not be?

    In terms of that incident, well, no – the extra $200 (or whatever) is not going to be any significant added penalty compared to what has already happened.

    The only reason I can see to give the ticket (and could apply to most offenses, though I honestly doubt it’s the real reason most of the time) would be to get that DUI publicly recorded, for the sake of making sure that, if the moron manages not to learn their lesson from wrecking, that at some point, we take away their license, etc, etc.

    But there SHOULD (isn’t that a fun word?) be a way to record that without the added chunk of money, which is unnecessary for a punishment stand point and really only serves a revenue purpose in such a situation.

  31. #31 |  Not Sure | 

    Regarding your constitutional rights… this is America. You have the rights the government says you do. At least, until they say you don’t.

    If the government wanted your opinion on the topic, they would have asked.

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