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.