Advisory Jury

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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A jury that makes recommendations to a judge but does not render final judgment.

Advisory juries are authorized by Rule 39(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). This provision states that in all actions where the plaintiff does not have the right to a jury trial, the court may authorize an advisory jury if a party requests it or the judge concludes independently that it is appropriate. The "verdict" the advisory jury renders is not binding on the judge. Advisory juries are typically used when the federal government is the sole defendant in a civil lawsuit and when the claims at issue are particularly sensitive. In addition, OBSCENITY trials sometimes employ an advisory jury to determine whether the material in question is obscene based on community standards. Because the FRCP serves as the model for state rules of procedure, most states also authorize advisory juries.

The advisory jury originated in English courts of EQUITY, in which the chancellor (the name for an equity court judge) heard cases without a jury but had discretion to appoint a jury to advise him. In modern law a judge has great discretion in determining how much weight an advisory jury verdict will bear on a final judgment. Some judges adopt advisory jury findings unless they are clearly erroneous while other judges consider the findings an additional piece of evidence to be weighed in deciding the case.

After the government siege of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in 1993, an advisory jury was used in a lawsuit against the federal government filed by the survivors of the fire that ended the siege, and relatives of...

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