Duty of Citizens to Serve as Jurors

Standard Charge For Civil Juries In New Jersey

The standard charge that New Jersey Judges give to all civil juries

“I recognize that serving as a juror is inconvenient, but jury service is an important duty of citizenship. Having jurors available to decide the facts in lawsuits is fundamental to our entire system of justice. The courts cannot function without members of the public offering their time to serve as jurors. You sit here as judges of the facts. You alone have the responsibility of deciding the factual issues in this case. It is your recollection and evaluation of the evidence that controls. If the attorneys or I say anything about the facts in this case that disagrees with your recollection of the evidence, it is your recollection that you should rely on. Your decision in this case must be based solely on the evidence presented and my instructions on the law.”

“Your oath as jurors requires you to decide this case fairly and impartially, without sympathy, passion, bias or prejudice. You are to decide this case based solely upon the evidence that you find believable and in accordance with the rules of law that I give you.”

“Sympathy is an emotion which is normal for human beings. No one can be critical of you for feeling some degree of sympathy in this matter. However, that sympathy must play no part in your thinking and in the decision you reach in the jury room.”

“Similarly, your decision must not be based upon bias or prejudice which you might have developed during the trial, for or against any party.”

“Your duty is to decide this case impartially and a decision based on sympathy, passion, bias or prejudice would violate that duty.”

“As the jury in this case, you will be the judges of the facts and you will be the only judges of the facts. You will have to decide what happened. I play no part in judging the facts. That is your responsibility. My role is to be the judge of the law, that is to say, I make whatever legal decisions have to be made during the course of the trial, and I will explain to you the legal principles that must guide you in your decisions on the facts. You are to judge the facts in this case based upon the evidence presented to you and based only on the evidence. This evidence will consist of the testimony of witnesses, the exhibits marked into evidence and any material that we read to you.”

“As the trier of fact, it will be your job to judge the believability of the witnesses. Size up the witness. Is the witness telling the truth? Does the witness know what he/she is talking about? How good is the witness’s recollection? Is the witness accurate and correct in what he/she is saying? You may also consider the demeanor of the witness, that is, how is the witness behaving and responding to the questions asked. You may believe part of the witness’s testimony and not believe other parts of it.”

“During the trial, I will be required to rule on the admission or rejection of evidence. You are to give no consideration to any evidence that I rule to be inadmissible and you are not to speculate or guess about what that evidence might have been or what it might have meant.”

“Do not infer from any rulings I make in this case or anything I say what my feelings might be about the outcome of this case. Even if you knew what my feelings were, you should disregard them, because it is your decisions on the facts that control, not mine.”

“At the close of the entire case, I will explain to you the law, which applies to this case. You must accept the law as I explain it to you and apply it to the facts as you find them to be based on the evidence.”

“During the course of the trial, you will hear from the attorneys on numerous occasions. Always bear in mind that the attorneys are not witnesses and what they say is not evidence in the case, whether they are arguing, objecting or asking questions. The attorneys are here as advocates and spokespersons for their clients’ positions.”

“This case is very important to all the parties involved. They are entitled to the full attention of the jury throughout the trial and to fair and impartial consideration of the case by the jury. It is important, therefore, that you keep an open mind about this case until the very end when you are in the jury room deliberating. You are not to make any judgments or come to any conclusions about this case, until you have heard the whole story and that means until all the evidence is presented and I have explained the law to you.”

“You are not to have any contact or discussions with any of the parties, their attorneys or any of the witnesses.”

“You are not to discuss the case with anyone or permit anyone to discuss the case with you, whether here in the courthouse or anywhere outside the courthouse. If anyone attempts to discuss this case with you or attempts to influence your judgment about the case, you are to report that to me immediately.”

“If you are to keep an open mind, you must not even discuss this case among yourselves until it is over and you are deliberating. That means, when you convene each morning and as you are leaving at the end of each trial day and during your recesses and breaks you are not to talk about this case among yourselves.”

“Do not discuss this case with anyone not on the jury. This includes your family and friends. When you go home you may tell your family you have been selected as a juror in a civil case and the expected length of the trial. You should not tell them anything more about the case. Even though a further explanation by you may begin innocently, once you finish talking the other person is not going to just stand there and say nothing. That person will say something and that response may influence your thinking. Your thinking should be influenced only by what you learn in the courtroom.”

Where Case Involves An Accident:

“While this case is pending, you must not visit the scene of the accident. That area may have changed from the time of the accident until now.”

In All Cases:

“While this case is pending, you must not conduct any research or make any investigations on your own about the case. You are prohibited from conducting any investigation or research whatsoever. That is not your job. Your job is to decide the case based solely upon the evidence presented to all of you here in the courtroom.”

“You must not investigate, research, review or seek out information about the issues in the case, either specifically or generally, the parties, the attorneys or the witnesses, either in traditional formats such as newspapers, books, advertisements, television, radio broadcasts, magazines, through any research or inquiry on the Internet, in any blog, or any other computer, phone, text device, smart phone, tablet or any other device. You must also not attempt to communicate with others about the case or even about general subject matters raised during this case, either personally or through computers, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, personal electronic and media devices or other forms of wireless communication. You must not go on the Internet, participate in, or review any websites, Internet chat rooms or blogs, and you must not seek out photographs, documents, or information of any kind that in any way relate to this case. This prohibition includes any inquiry, search or investigation into the facts of the case, the identities of the parties, the identities of the attorneys or the court personnel, news articles or reports, legal research, research regarding general subject matters discussed during this case, or even to look up in a dictionary or on-line a definition of a word or legal phrase that has been used at trial, either by the witness, an attorney, or the Court, that you do not understand. It is the job of this Court to ensure that you are provided with all of the information that you are permitted to have in order to decide this case.”

“Why is this restriction imposed? You are here to decide this case based solely on the evidence — or lack of evidence — that is presented in this courtroom. You may wrongly be inclined to think that different or additional information from other sources would be helpful to you, or that this prohibition is somehow artificial. Many of you regularly use the Internet to do research or to examine matters of interest to you. You may have seen information in the media that suggests to you that the type or quality of information that you are being presented with in this particular case is not what you expected or what should be presented to you. This is not for you to determine. You must understand that any information you might access from sources outside of what is presented in this courtroom is not evidence. One of the problems is that what you are examining may be wrong, incomplete, or inaccurate. That material may be outdated, or may simply not be applicable in this particular case. Indeed, there often is no way to determine whether the information that we obtain from other sources, such as the Internet, is correct or has any relevance to this case. There may be other reasons that certain information is not being presented to you and it is not for you to question why that may be. Our system of justice requires that you, as a juror, not be influenced by any information outside of this courtroom. Otherwise, your decision may be based on material which only you, and none of your fellow jurors, know. This would unfairly and adversely impact the judicial process. We must make certain that all of you hear the same evidence. Just as you must not obtain individually, you also must not obtain any information from sources outside the courtroom and share it with your fellow jurors. We must also make certain that each party has a fair opportunity to refute or explain evidence offered against it or that may be unfavorable to its case.”

“Please understand this clearly. If it is determined that any one of you has violated this directive and conducted any type of research or investigation outside of this courtroom, it may result in a mistrial, which would require this case to be tried again at great cost to the parties and the judicial system, and it may lead to a penalty being imposed upon the person who violates this directive, or fails to advise the Court if another member of the jury has violated this directive.”

Counsel’s Right to Peremptory Challenges

“After I have asked you a number of questions which relate to your ability to hear and decide this case with an open mind and with complete impartiality, the attorneys who represent the parties in this lawsuit can exercise the right to excuse one or more of the jurors without giving any explanation or reason. If you are excused in that manner, please do not take it personally. No offense is intended. The law traditionally gives each attorney the right to have a limited number of jurors excused for no expressed reason.”

Excusing the Balance of the Jury after Selection is Complete

After the jury has been selected and sworn in by the court clerk, the balance of the jury panel is returned to the Jury Assembly Room with the following comments:

“The remainder of the jury panel may return to the Jury Assembly Room. Thank you for your service. Please remember my remarks earlier about the importance of jury service to the court system. Your presence here and your availability to serve as jurors are greatly appreciated.”

Conclusion

I also would like to express my personal gratitude to all of my fellow citizens who support the justice system by serving as jurors, despite the inconvenience associated with such service. You make the system work.


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