A forgetful juror.

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting article the other day involving the complications that may arise because a jury foreman forgot to disclose some important facts.

Several weeks ago a wrongful termination case concluded in the courtroom of Circuit Court Judge Jame McCarthy. In that case, attorney James Crowley had sued his former employer, Chicago State University[“CSU”], alleging he was fired in retaliation for reporting some misconduct by CSU officials. During jury selection jurors were asked[as they almost always are]if they are party to any pending litigation. Antoine Bass[who was ultimately chosen as the jury foreman] was asked the same question and indicated he was not a party to any pending lawsuits. At the conclusion of the case the jury awarded nearly $3 million dollars to Crowley.

The problem is – Bass was in fact a named defendant in a lawsuit. The other lawsuit[ironically also a wrongful termination case] was filed by a Ms. Donna Leak. Ms. Leak was the former Superintendent of Rich South School District 227. After she was terminated she sued the District as well as Bass and two other individuals. Each of the individual defendants, including Bass, were members of the School Board and sued in that capacity. Bass has indicated that because he was sued as a member of the School Board, he wasn’t required to disclose Leak’s lawsuit.

But there some additional facts that make the situation even stickier. After Ms. Leak was terminated, a relative -Mr. Spencer Leak – allegedly threatened a member of the School Board. Mr. Leak is a Board Member of CSU. And the individual he allegedly threatened was a political ally of Mr. Bass.

Jury selection can be bewildering for lawyers. Typically judges will ask some fundamental questions and then give the lawyers a limited opportunity to talk to prospective jurors. It can be a boring, repetitive process, even when done by seasoned pros. And there are as many theories on jury selection as there are lawyers. But most trial lawyers will tell you that one of their primary objectives is identifying those jurors who might be biased against their case or client – and promptly dismissing them. And most trial lawyers would certainly want to know if one of the jurors staring at them has recently had a very negative experience with someone affiliated with the client. Overturning a jury verdict due to alleged juror omissions is no small task. But this case has some compelling facts….