Imagine this scenario: Judge A had a busy civil calendar before leaving for vacation. Although all the hearings are complete, the judge did not make rulings on some issues. As to a couple of other matters, the judge announced her intended rulings in court but did not enter orders, some of which will require written findings of fact. Sadly the Judge fell very ill during vacation, will not be able to resume her duties on the bench, and will soon retire due to disability. Will another judge be able to complete the work Judge A started?Continue Reading
Jury Misconduct – Will the Judge Order a New Trial?
Anyone who has ever been a juror in a civil trial probably remembers the judge’s repeated instructions not to talk to anyone about the case prior to deliberations, to avoid communications with parties, witnesses, and attorneys, to report to the bailiff when anyone tries to talk to a juror about the case, to avoid media coverage of the trial, to refrain from doing independent investigation (nope, not even casual Googling), and to base the verdict only on the evidence. The whole point, of course, is to make the trial as fair as possible. But what if a juror goes astray? When can a losing party get relief based on the juror’s misdeeds?
Rule 59 of the North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure sets out nine categories of grounds for a new trial. Among them is Rule 59(a)(2), which in part allows a court to grant a new trial based on “misconduct of the jury.” Yesterday in Town of Beech Mountain v. Genesis Wildlife Sanctuary, Inc., the Court of Appeals assessed whether the trial judge should have ordered a new trial where, Continue Reading
New Trial Motions under Rule 59: Only for Post-trial Relief?
North Carolina Rule of Civil Procedure 59 permits a trial judge to order a “new trial” for a number of reasons, including prejudicial irregularity, jury misconduct, newly-discovered evidence, insufficient evidence to justify the verdict, prejudicial error of law, and several other bases. Rule 59 relief is designed to follow fast on the heels of a trial judgment: a new trial motion must be served within 10 days of entry of judgment, and the court cannot extend this deadline. By its plain language, Rule 59 clearly is intended to provide relief after a “trial.” Several of the listed grounds indeed explicitly relate to juries and verdicts or are otherwise relevant only in a post-trial context. And, of course, the stated remedy is itself a new “trial.” To what extent are parties nevertheless allowed to use Rule 59 to seek relief from judgments not resulting from a jury or non-jury trial? And why might it matter? As discussed below, it appears that invoking Rule 59 for appealable orders other than trial judgments could put the movant’s appeal rights at risk.Continue Reading