This week in public records: Secret Juries

The names of jurors are public records, according to a ruling by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which countered the actions of a Pennsylvania federal judge who kept the juror names from the media in a high-profile trial. Apparently, the 3rd Circuit believes that’s not the norm in federal court, but the reality on the ground is a bit mixed. It’s a different world in state courts, many of which have an explicit ban on releasing the names of jurors.

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2 thoughts on “This week in public records: Secret Juries

  1. A common misconception among most people and even P.I.s; is that the state courts absolutely have to go by the standards that are set by the federal courts (i.e. court rules, trial procedure, etc., etc.). Many times you will hear P.I. say or see on a P.I.s webpage something to the effect of “Federal Court Rules Apply” This simply NOT so. See the example listed below for the state of Missouri:
    ———————————————–
    James Braddy, Respondent,
    v.
    Union Pacific Railroad Company, Appellant.

    ED81967.

    Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District.

    August 5, 2003.

    In reviewing FELA cases, Missouri courts are bound by the decisions of the United States Supreme Court. Heppner v. Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Co., 297 S.W.2d 497, 501 (Mo. banc 1956). However, Missouri courts may apply their own procedural rules, and a motion for new trial under Rule 78.01 is procedural. Zibung v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., 776 S.W.2d 4, 5 (Mo. banc 1989). The Missouri Supreme Court stated in Zibung that the trial court has the power to find that the jury verdict is against the weight of the evidence, and that it has broad authority to grant a new trial.
    ————————————————

    It is quite apparent that the Federal Courts allow the state courts to make some of their own rules independent of the Federal Court Rules. In the case cited above, the state of Missouri takes note that the procedural rules in how court is conducted here in Missouri can be decided by the state; REGARDLESS of the Federal Court’s Procedural Rules.

    This is worth keeping in mind when we look to the Federal Courts for guidance in state court matters…

    Rick.

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