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  #1  
Old 06-05-2005, 03:22 PM
longhair75 longhair75 is online now
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when is it legal for judge to reverse a jury verdict?

good afternoon friends,

ocassionally you hear that a verdict by a jury is vacated, and reversed by the judge trying the case.

what circumstances are necessary for this to be legal? can the reversal be appealed?
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  #2  
Old 06-05-2005, 03:31 PM
friedo friedo is offline
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The precise rules for this thing vary a lot by jurisdiction. In general, in a criminal trial, a judge may overturn a guilty verdict under extraordinary circumstances, such as if he feels the prosecution relied on jurors' prejudices instead of the facts of the case. A judge can not overturn an acquital.

Civil cases are a lot more complicated.
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Old 06-05-2005, 07:27 PM
longhair75 longhair75 is online now
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friend friedo,

thanks! i appreciate the answer
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  #4  
Old 06-05-2005, 09:19 PM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Here is the text of the rule allowing judges to order a new trial in a civil case. There are other ways that a judge can tinker with a verdict, but it seems like you are asking about new trials:

Quote:
A new trial may be granted to all or any of the parties and on all or part of the issues (1) in an action in which there has been a trial by jury, for any of the reasons for which new trials have heretofore been granted in actions at law in the courts of the United States; and (2) in an action tried without a jury, for any of the reasons for which rehearings have heretofore been granted in suits in equity in the courts of the United States. On a motion for a new trial in an action tried without a jury, the court may open the judgment if one has been entered, take additional testimony, amend findings of fact and conclusions of law or make new findings and conclusions, and direct the entry of a new judgment.
Not especially helpful, right?

Try this then:


Quote:
F.R.C.P. 59(a). The Seventh Circuit has held that for the court to grant a Rule 59 motion, the petition must "clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence." See LB Credit Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263, 1267 (7th Cir. 1995); see also Anderson v. Flexel, Inc., 47 F.3d 243, 247 (7th Cir. 1994) (holding that post-judgment motions may not be used to raise arguments or legal theories that were not raised at before the judgment). Furthermore, in Libutti v. United States, 178 F.3d 114, 118-119 (2nd Cir. 1999), a case cited by the petitioner, the Second Circuit stated that:

[A] trial court should be most reluctant to set aside that which it has previously decided unless convinced that it was based on a mistake of fact or clear error of law, or that refusal to revisit the earlier decision would work a manifest injustice.... Certainly, a trial court should not grant a new trial simply because, like the proverbial second bite at the apple, the losing party believes it can present a better case if afforded another chance. Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, newly discovered evidence constitutes a recognized ground for a new trial.
http://www.wiw.uscourts.gov/bankrupt...rdm/dec172.htm
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Old 06-05-2005, 10:24 PM
David Simmons David Simmons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gfactor
[A] trial court should be most reluctant to set aside that which it has previously decided unless convinced that it was based on a mistake of fact or clear error of law, or that refusal to revisit the earlier decision would work a manifest injustice [underline added].... Certainly, a trial court should not grant a new trial simply because, like the proverbial second bite at the apple, the losing party believes it can present a better case if afforded another chance. Nonetheless, in certain circumstances, newly discovered evidence constitutes a recognized ground for a new trial.
There's always that escape clause. In other words, "... you can only grant a new trial under these conditions. However, if your really think a new trial is warranted here's a way to do it."
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  #6  
Old 06-05-2005, 10:38 PM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Remember, too that a court's grant of a new trial isn't really very reviewable . . .

Quote:
The grant or denial of motion for new trial is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court and will not be disturbed if there is "any evidence" to authorize the trial court's ruling. Professional Consulting Svcs. of Ga. v. Ibrahim, 206 Ga. App. 663, 665 (1) (426 SE2d 376) (1992).

In reviewing an order on a motion for new trial, appellate courts do not weigh the evidence or give an opinion on where the greater weight of the evidence lies but determine merely whether the record contains sufficient evidence to authorize the trial court's judgment. Milam v. Attaway, 195 Ga. App. 496, 497 (1) (393 SE2d 753) (1990).
Basic standard

What this really means:

Quote:
We have long recognized the importance of deferring to the trial court'sdiscretionary rulings regarding the necessity for a new trial:
[T]he trial judges of this state have traditionally exercised theirdiscretionary power to grant a new trial in civil cases quite sparingly inproper deference to the finality and sanctity of the jury's findings. Webelieve that our appellate courts should place great faith and confidence inthe ability of our trial judges to make the right decision, fairly and withoutpartiality, regarding the necessity of a new trial. Due to their activeparticipation in the trial, their first-hand acquaintance with the evidencepresented, their observations of the parties, the witnesses, the jurors and theattorneys involved, and their knowledge of various other attendantcircumstances, presiding judges have the superior advantage in best determiningwhat justice requires in a certain case.

Worthington , 305 N.C. at 487, 290 S.E.2d at 605. It is impossible toplace precise boundaries on the trial court's exercise of its discretion togrant a new trial. However, we emphasize that this power must be used with great care and exceeding reluctance . This is so because the exercise ofthis discretion sets aside a jury verdict and, therefore, will always have sometendency to diminish the fundamental right to trial by jury in civil caseswhich is guaranteed by our Constitution.
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Old 06-05-2005, 10:43 PM
astorian astorian is online now
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I am not a lawyer, so my word should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, I believe different states vary drastically in the powers they give judges. Mssachusetts is one state in which judges have broad powers to overturn jury rulings. Many people learned of this only after the famous case of the young English au pair who was charged with shaking a baby to death. The jury found her guilty of killing the child (I forget the precise charge), but the judge set the verdict aside, and let the girl return to England.

In most states (certainly here in Texas), the judge would have had no such power, and the jury's verdict would have stood.
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Old 06-05-2005, 11:01 PM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Of course states vary on their new trial practices. I haven't looked at all of them, but most have the same verbal formula. Here is Massachussetts':

Quote:
Review of Motion for New Trial

The procedure for seeking a new trial is governed exclusively by rules, and the cases which interpret the rules. In civil cases, Mass.R.Civ.P. 59 controls; in criminal cases, Mass.R.Crim.P. 25(b)(2), and 30(b)

An appeal from a conviction for first degree murder requires a broad appellate review under G.L. c. 278, 33E which allows, among other sources of relief, a new trial. However, after the Supreme Judicial Court has considered the appeal under 33E, a motion for new trial faces an uphill struggle. If the motion is filed in the Superior Court and denied, "no appeal shall be from the decision of that court upon such motion unless the appeal is allowed by a single justice of the Supreme Judicial Court on the ground that it presents a new and substantial question which ought to be determined by the full court." This so called "gatekeeper" provision has been upheld in the face of a constitutional attack.

There is no requirement that the trial judge conduct a hearing on a motion for new trial. Claims which have already been raised and rejected on appeal or which could have been raised on appeal will not ordinarily serve as basis for allowance of a motion for new trial. Issues not argued before the motion judge will not generally be considered on appeal because they are not part of the appellate record. Similarly, questions which were raised or might have been raised at trial need not be considered on a motion for new trial.

A motion for new trial is addressed to the discretion of the judge. An appellate court will not reverse a trial judge unless there appears to be an abuse of discretion. The standard of review in criminal cases under G.L. c. 278, 33 is "grave prejudice or substantial likelihood that a miscarriage of justice has occurred."
Massacussetts Rule 59 is similar to the federal rule I quoted earlier.

I have been unable to locat similar information about Texas, but I suspect the standard of appellate review is abuse of discretion.
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  #9  
Old 06-05-2005, 11:08 PM
Gfactor Gfactor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by astorian
I am not a lawyer, so my word should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, I believe different states vary drastically in the powers they give judges. Mssachusetts is one state in which judges have broad powers to overturn jury rulings. Many people learned of this only after the famous case of the young English au pair who was charged with shaking a baby to death. The jury found her guilty of killing the child (I forget the precise charge), but the judge set the verdict aside, and let the girl return to England.

In most states (certainly here in Texas), the judge would have had no such power, and the jury's verdict would have stood.
According to this the judge reduced the charge and found her guilty of manslaughter. The controversial part was that he sentenced her to time served.

This has little to do with new trial standards. Standards governing a judge's discretion to modify a verdict do vary more from state to state.
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