United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FABER, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is defendant's motion for to allow
post-trial contact with jurors. (ECF No. 301). That motion is
appeals court stated just last year,
There are good reasons for limiting the parties'
interactions with jurors after the verdict. Jury service
needs to come to a timely conclusion. See Pena-Rodriguez
[v. Colorado], 137 S.Ct.  at 865, 869 [(2017)]. It
ordinarily ends, logically enough, when the jurors reach a
verdict. Losing parties may have an incentive to uncover the
course of deliberations with an eye to undermining the
jury's conclusion. See McDonald v. Pless, 238
U.S. 264, 267-69, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915). The
judicial system, by contrast, possesses an interest in
protecting the confidentiality of juror discussions and in
allowing jurors to resume their normal routines. See
Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 118-20, 107 S.Ct.
2739, 97 L.Ed.2d 90 (1987). The willingness of jurors to
serve and to speak freely during deliberations depends on
this no-impeachment principle. See Rakes v. United
States, 169 F.2d 739, 745-46 (4th Cir. 1948).
Post-verdict interrogations have at least the potential to
stretch out or to turn adversarial, and thereby undermine the
United States v. Birchette, 908 F.3d 50, 55-56 (4th
Cir. 2018). A district court's denial of a request to
interview jurors is reviewed for an abuse of discretion.
See id. (“This is a deferential standard,
designed primarily to correct the arbitrary exercise of
authority while upholding the range of reasonable judgment
calls a trial judge is well positioned to make.”).
support of its motion, Murphy-Brown states:
As the Court is aware, there are currently eight other cases
set for trial that are related to the recently concluded
trial. The juries in these upcoming cases will consider many
of the same issues considered by the jury in this case.
Murphy-Brown seeks to interview the jurors only to hone-and
make more concise-the arguments it presented in this
bellwether trial. The need for juror interviews is especially
acute here because the Court did not use a special verdict
form during the compensatory damages phase of the trial. As a
result, without interviews, Murphy-Brown is not able to
ascertain which aspect or aspects of the operations at the
Sholar Farm the jury actually perceived to constitute a
nuisance. This information could be invaluable in attempting
to streamline future trials, and potentially even avoiding
new claims in the future.
Additionally, the requested interviews are not being
conducted as part of any effort to challenge the judgment.
Murphy-Brown will stipulate that it will not seek to
introduce any testimony from any of the jurors gathered
during post-trial interviews. Therefore, many of the
oft-voiced concerns regarding post-trial jury
interviews-including that they lead to post-trial litigation
and attempts to set aside verdicts-are not implicated.
Finally, if the Court allows interviews, there would be no
prejudice to Plaintiffs because any order allowing contact
with jurors could apply equally to all Parties.
ECF No. 301 at pp.3-4. Defendant's desire to interview
the jurors in order to “hone” its arguments for
further trials is not a compelling reason to allow
post-verdict interviews with jurors under the facts and
circumstances of this case. “The [ ] interests of both
the disgruntled litigant and its counsel in interviewing
jurors in order to satisfy their curiosity and improve their
curiosity are limited.” Haeberle v. Texas Intern.
Airlines, 739 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1984) (denying
attorney leave to interview jurors about basis for adverse
verdict where counsel “sought information to satisfy
their own curiosity and improve their techniques of
advocacy”); see also Sixberry v. Buster, 88
F.R.D. 561, 561-62 (E.D. Pa. 1989) (“It is well settled
that the Federal courts strongly disfavor `any public or
private post-trial inquisition of jurors as to how they
reasoned, lest it operate to intimidate, beset and harass
them' . . . In those instances in which such questioning
of jurors is allowed, it is limited for the purpose of
allowing counsel to investigate possible irregularities that
might provide grounds for a new trial . . . . Counsel cites
no cases, nor does our research disclose any cases, which
permit an attorney to conduct a post-trial inquisition of
jurors solely to improve the trial skills of the trial
attorney.”); Olsson v. A.O. Smith Harvestore
Prods., Inc., 696 F.Supp. 411, 412 (S.D. Ind. 1986)
(“Post-verdict communications with jurors solely for
the purpose of an attorney's self-education cannot be
defendant's desire to speak with the jurors was brought
to the court's attention after the jurors were
discharged. Therefore, the court was unable to; 1) ascertain
from the jurors whether they would be willing to talk with
counsel; and 2) provide any sort of instruction to the jurors
regarding their rights surrounding such contact. Furthermore,
given the extensive media coverage of this case, coupled with
the fact that there are numerous cases yet to be tried, the
court does not find that defendant has provided a compelling
reason to intrude upon the jury's deliberations in this
case. The jury in this case has already been burdened by
sitting through a multi-week trial and the court does not
want to discourage further jury service by permitting contact
when the jury has not said such contact would be welcome.
See id. (noting that prohibiting post-trial
communications with jurors “avoid[s] the harassment of
jurors, thereby encouraging jury service and freedom of
discussion in the jury room”).
Clerk is directed to send copies of this Order to all counsel