Advisory Jury

Advisory Jury

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 those who died in the fire. The survivors' Wrongful Death action asked for $675 million in damages. Under the Federal Tort Claims Act the survivors did not have a right to a jury trial but the federal judge concluded that an advisory jury was needed. In July 2000, the jury ruled in favor of the federal government on all counts and the judge endorsed these findings in a final judgment.

Further readings

"Practice and Potential of the Advisory Jury." 1987. Harvard Law Review 100 (April).

Wisenberg, Solomon. 2000. "What the Waco Advisory Jury Did Not Hear." CNN.com: Law Center. Available online at <edition.cnn.com/2000/LAW/07/columns/fl.wisenberg.waco.07.20> (accessed August 6, 2003).

References in periodicals archive ?
Todays ruling by Judge Nugent follows a 12-day trial in April, which concluded with an advisory jury finding in favor of the plaintiffs.
outlined above, but the judge may empanel an advisory jury to make
52) The Harris court went on to conclude, "the Eighth Amendment does not require the State to define the weight the sentencing judge must accord an advisory jury verdict.
No advisory jury will help decide whether Ben Bond violated Eugene's city code during a January clash with a parking officer, a municipal court judge decided Tuesday.
whether the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution requires the sentencing judge to ascribe any particular weight to the verdict of an advisory jury.
An advisory jury in a multi-million wrongful death lawsuit against the US government has found that federal agents were not to blame for the deaths of 80 sect members in the Waco siege and fire.
127) Following this line of reasoning, Justice O'Connor concluded that "the Eighth Amendment does not require the State to define the weight the sentencing judge must accord to an advisory jury verdict.
12) This inverse condemnation case, tried before an advisory jury, claimed that an upgrade of power lines in an existing right-of-way significantly increased the strength of electromagnetic fields and therefore diminished the value of the adjoining property.
The findings of an advisory jury might carry considerable weight in the ultimate decision, however, in keeping with the rich tradition of jury use in the United States.
Although no jury was required for the civil suit, the judge empaneled an advisory jury.
The session will allow lawyers for Ben Bond and the city to present oral arguments to a municipal judge on Bond's request for an advisory jury in the case.
Ben Bond, represented at no charge by longtime Eugene attorney William Wiswall, is due back in Eugene Municipal Court on March 1 for oral arguments on his request that a municipal judge appoint an advisory jury to hear the high-profile case.

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