If You Serve On A Jury Are You Allowed to Take Notes ?

Posted By Michael R. Varble || 16-Dec-2013

In this blog post, I discuss if a member of the public serving jury duty may take notes during a case. The short answer to the questions is yes, you may take notes if a judge permits it.

This issue normally arises when a juror asks if they may take notes and the Court will normally address this issue at the beginning of a case. The Court will instruct jurors that whether they take notes or not, the jurors should be aware that the court reporter records everything stated in the courtroom, and any portion of the transcript, at the jury's request, will be read back to the jury during deliberations. If jurors do take notes during the trial, the judge will ask the the note taking not become a distraction during the course of the proceedings.

The trial judge will also further instruct the jurors that, if they take notes during the trial, the notes are for personal notes only and are simply an aid to the juror's memory. Notes may be inaccurate or incomplete and they should not be given any greater weight than the juror's independent recollection. In addition, jurors are also instructed that notes should not be given any greater weight or influence than the recollection of other jurors about the facts or the conclusions to be drawn from the facts in determining the outcome of the case. Jurors who do not take notes should rely on their independent recollection of the evidence and not be influenced by the fact that another juror has taken notes. Any difference between a juror's recollection and a juror's notes should always be settled by asking to have the court reporter's transcript on that point read back. The court transcript should always govern a jury's determination rather than one of the juror's notes. Notes are no substitute for the official record or for the governing principles of law that the Court provides to the Jury at the conclusion of a case.

Whether to allow jurors to take notes during the trial rests in the discretion of the trial judge. It has also been held to be reversible error for a trial judge to tell one juror to take notes of the key portions of the charge, which is the instructions on the law that the Court provides to a jury at the conclusion of a case. Courts do not have to permit jurors to take notes. However, a Court may, on its own, instruct the jury that they are permitted to take notes. The Court is also normally required to instruct the jury on note taking at both the beginning and the end of the case.

The main thing to take from all of this is that jurors may take notes. Courts, however, need to provide cautionary instructions and appellate Courts have held that, if the trial court does not provide these charges, it is reversible error. What does reversible error mean ? Well, that is not something you as a client every really want to hear, unless you are on the wrong end of a decision. It means that the trial Court made mistakes that require the appellate Court to reverse the outcome from the lower Court. There are many different things that can happen when a case is sent back to a trial Court. Any way you look at it though, the parties will incur greater expense and delay in having a case resolved.

As I always say, I hope none of our readers really need to use my services and I hope that no one ever becomes a Plaintiff. Unfortunately, I know that people will be injured, people will suffer due to other individuals negligence and we attorneys will always have work to perform. So if you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to the negligence of someone else, give us a call at 1.888.900.6204 for a free consultation and a free case evaluation. The attorneys at Michael R. Varble & Associates, P.C. have over 150 combined years of experience and we will fight for you.

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