My adversary in a civil action in Connecticut just sought to withdraw his jury claim, what does this mean and what should I do?
23 February 2023
Answer: It means that the other party made a jury claim earlier in the case and paid $400.00 for it and the case was set for jury and now they want it to be tried in front of a judge instead (and they also may want their $400 returned). What to do depends on what you want.
First, let’s lay out the basics. Connecticut has a unique right conferred in its constitution about the right to a jury, and further, the “right to challenge jurors peremptorily . . . and to question each juror individually by counsel [that is regarded as] inviolate.” Conn. Const. Art. I, § 19. Inviolate means not to be harmed or damaged, or pure. This is strong language. So in Connecticut, it is not just that you have a right to a jury, that is common in States, but the right to peremptorily challenge jurors and the right to what is called “individual voir dire” this is as opposed to no voir dire or collective voir dire. This means in Connecticut the questioning is direct and individual to each prospective juror.
And in this situation, since your adversary is seeking to withdraw their jury claim, indicates that they made one before. You see, there is a time in the case were a litigant must make that election and pay a $400.00 fee to do so that both of you had. He opted for it and you did not, it appears.
Getting back to the question, your adversary is looking to forgo that, for whatever reason, and not have a jury at all, which means a judge will decide your case.
There are pros and cons to having a jury, especially in Connecticut. A jury may award more for heinous facts. Individual voir dire takes significant time and if you are paying counsel that can be costly. Trials in front of juries are more complicated as opposed to a judge because of all the considerations of not prejudicing a jury. There is no book that can teach you what the right decision is, and it can be said there is no right or wrong decision here. So, what you want to do depends on your decision of what is best for you in your particular case.
However, there is an important note here, you will have the chance to decide on your own if you want a jury. In other words, just because you adversary made the claim for a jury and you did not, in Connecticut when one party seeks to withdraw its claim, the other party is considered to have “the concomitant right to rely on the [other party’s] claim” and will have a certain period of time to make a claim themselves. McDonald v. Merch, No. CV91 0117971 S, 1994 WL 668026 *1 (Conn Super. Ct. Nov. 16, 1994); see also Gargiulo v. Delsole, 769 F.2d 77, 79 (2nd Cir. 1985). So, start considering whether you want to make your own claim if you are in this situation, as it is likely it will be recognized (as the law provides) you have the right have relied upon your adversaries up until this time and can make your own claim for a jury.
You are facing an important decision and need to address it in the right way. In the event you are facing a similar situation, feel free to give this office a call.