May 28, 2007

Are jury verdicts in civil trials irrelevant?

According to the ultra-conservative Texas Supreme Court, you bet... if they disagree with the verdict even if it was based on sound legal ground. Way to turn the appeals process on it's head...

Reversing a multimillion dollar judgment is not out of character for a court packed with conservative judges, six of them appointed by Gov. Rick Perry before winning pro forma elections. But the legal reasoning that the slim majority used to justify its ruling was so alarming—and sets such an unappetizing precedent—that it has spawned incredulity in Texas legal circles. In effect, the court reviewed the evidence and decided the jury was wrong. It was a remarkable reach beyond the court’s usual exercise of power.

Ordinarily, appeals courts give great deference to a jury’s conclusions. Jurors, after all, are the ones who hear the witnesses, review evidence, and deliberate the case. A court usually has a compelling reason when it decides to disregard the jury’s conclusions.

What that reason might be is not clear in this case. More than a few scholars argue that the state Supreme Court doesn’t have a sound legal principle with which to justify its decision. Worse, they fear it opens the door for other Texas courts to begin arbitrarily tossing aside jury verdicts with which they disagree. If the high court continues on this course, they say, the constitutional right to a civil jury trial could be in jeopardy.

Pinche Tejano has more on the judges up for re-election next year. These folks need to be shown the door, post haste.

Posted by mcblogger at May 28, 2007 12:14 PM

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