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Team Contractors, L.L.C. v. Waypoint Nola, L.L.C.

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

May 21, 2019

TEAM CONTRACTORS, LLC, Plaintiff
v.
WAYPOINT NOLA, LLC, ET AL., Defendants

         SECTION: “E” (2)

          ORDER AND REASONS

          SUSIE MORGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Before the Court is a motion for leave to contact a juror, filed by Defendant Waypoint NOLA, LLC (“Waypoint”).[1] The motion is opposed.[2] For the reasons that follow, the Court DENIES the motion.

         BACKGROUND

         The Court conducted a jury trial in this matter from April 15, 2019 to April 17, 2019.[3] The jury found in favor of Plaintiff Team Contractors, LLC (“Team”).[4] After the jury verdict was read, the Court's deputy polled the jury. Each juror stated in open court that he or she agreed with the verdict. The Court informed the jurors that they should not disclose any votes on any elements of the verdict form. The Court also informed the jurors that, in this district, attorneys must get permission from the Court before contacting a juror. The Court then excused the jury.

         On April 22, 2019, counsel for Waypoint informed the Court that a juror had called her office and left a voicemail stating she wished to discuss the trial. The Court asked Waypoint's counsel to refrain from contacting the juror until the Court instructed the parties on how to proceed. The Court contacted the juror and determined the juror wished to tell Waypoint's counsel the trial exhibits on which she relied during deliberations.

         On the same day, Waypoint filed the instant motion requesting leave to contact the juror.[5] On April 23, 2019, the Court held a telephone status conference with counsel for both parties.[6] Pursuant to the Court's instructions at the conference, Waypoint filed a supplemental memorandum in support of its motion, [7] and Team filed an opposition.[8]

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         Rule 47.5 of the Local Civil Rules of this Court provides:

(A) A juror has no obligation to speak to any person about any case and may refuse all interviews or requests for comments.
(B) Attorneys and parties to an action, or anyone acting on their behalf, are prohibited from speaking with, examining or interviewing any juror regarding the proceedings, except with leave of court. If leave of court is granted, it shall be conducted only as specifically directed by the court.
(C) No. person may make repeated requests to interview or question a juror after the juror has expressed a desire not to be interviewed.[9]

         In Haeberle v. Texas Int'l Airlines, the Fifth Circuit explained the policy reasons for limiting contact with jurors as follows:

Federal courts have generally disfavored post-verdict interviewing of jurors. We have repeatedly refused to denigrate jury trials by afterwards ransacking the jurors in search of some new ground, not previously supported by evidence, for a new trial. Prohibiting post-verdict interviews protects the jury from an effort to find grounds for post-verdict charges of misconduct, reduces the chances and temptations for tampering with the jury, increases the certainty of civil trials, and spares the district courts time-consuming and futile proceedings. We have therefore uniformly refused to upset the denial of leave to interview jurors for the purpose of obtaining evidence of improprieties in the deliberations unless specific evidence of misconduct was shown by testimony or affidavit.[10]

         In Haeberle, the court acknowledged that, when a journalist requests leave to interview jurors, “the general public's right to receive information about judicial proceedings” under the First Amendment is implicated.[11] However, when attorneys seek to “satisfy their own curiosity and to improve their techniques of advocacy, ” their interests “carr[y] far less weight in the first amendment scale.”[12] The Court held, “The first-amendment interests of both the disgruntled litigant and its counsel in interviewing jurors in order to satisfy their curiosity and improve their advocacy are . . . plainly outweighed by the jurors' interest in privacy ...


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