Given the number of comments he posted, Bill Stegmeier’s Saturday nights are evidently even more boring than mine. After I pointed out to him that jury verdicts in criminal cases had to be unanimous, he told me I was “stret[c]hing things” and asked for a hypothetical on how a juror could get sued.
Criminal case: The defendant in a criminal case testifies and presents other evidence that he was not even in the town where the crime occurred on the date it occurred. Since that evidence goes to the heart of the defense and the defendant’s entire case, those clearly are “material facts.” The jury convicts him of the crime charged.
The defendant appeals and the verdict is upheld because the jury is the sole judge of the facts and could choose to disbelieve the defendant’s evidence. There is no question jurors are entitled to “judicial immunity” and, thus, are “other persons claiming to be shielded by judicial immunity.” One of the express grounds for a J.A.I.L. complaint is a “deliberate disregard of material facts” and jurors meet the definition of judge in Amendment E. Given the evidence he presented, the defendant has grounds to file a complaint with the J.A.I.L. grand jury because he could have been convicted only if the jurors deliberately disregarded material facts, i.e., his alibi evidence. Moreover, he alleges that since it would be impossible for the jury to accidentally reject his evidence, it must have been deliberate. The grand jury must construe those allegations in his favor and not be persuaded to if the jurors artfully present the case that they didn’t believe him or his other evidence. The grand jury can allow the jurors to be sued.
Civil case: Assume a party in a contract dispute claims their signature on the contract is a forgery and presents handwriting experts who agree. The jury has to find against one party, thereby rejecting “material facts” of their case. Assume the Supreme Court upholds the jury verdict. Once again, J.A.I.L. allows the losing party to file a complaint because the jury necessarily engaged in “deliberate disregard of material facts.” Otherwise, it could never have reached a verdict.
This potential is far greater than many might think. A significant number of civil cases revolve around expert testimony presented by both sides. In fact, cases like medical malpractice or products liability generally require expert testimony. Plainly, then, such testimony constitutes material facts that are crucial to either side. In order to reach a verdict, the jury must accept one side’s “material facts” and reject (deliberately disregard) the other side’s. In each instance, then, the jurors face the potential for a J.A.I.L. complaint and a lawsuit against them.
School board president: Since Stegmeier initially asked how a school board president could be sued, I’ll also address that. Amendment E proponents say it also extends to actions that prevent “relevant evidence evidence from being admitted” or “relevant witnesses from testifying” and thereby “weakening one’s case.” Assume the school board president is presiding over a hearing on a petition to change the school district boundaries. He or she determines the board isn’t going to hear evidence or witnesses about another school district changing its boundaries, disagreeing with the petitioners over whether it is relevant. If the petition is denied, the petitioners can appeal. Let’s assume the board’s decision is upheld through the appeals. Under the scenario presented by J.A.I.L.ers, the petitioners can file a complaint seeking to sue the school board president because his or her decision (not the board’s) prevented what they contend to be relevant evidence or witnesses from being admitted, allegedly weakening their case. Since the J.A.I.L. grand jury must construe those allegationsin the petitioners’ favor, a prima facie case has been presented to strip immunity and allow the school board president to be sued, even if they have made an artful presentation on why that decision was right.
Note that in each of these cases there is no difficulty in ascertaining who made the decision. The criminal verdict was unanimous. If the civil verdict was not unanimous, the losing party can “poll” the jury to identify how each juror voted, thereby identifying potential J.A.I.L. defendants. The boundary change petitioners know exactly who ruled on the exclusion of evidence.
I am not the one stretching things. Rather, Amendment E stretches far beyond the confines of the judiciary, contrary to what Stegmeier and his followers would have the public believe.
Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird