September 18, 1990
Digest: Neither a judge, nor the judge’s re-election committee may contact jurors who have served on cases over which the judge has presided, to participate in the judge’s election campaign.
A judge should not initiate interviews with jurors after the verdict to determine whether they were influenced by bias or duress in reaching their verdict, nor should the judge keep a record of their names, addresses and telephone numbers.
Rules: 22 NYCRR §§100.2(a); 100.3(b)(4); 100.7
A full-time judge inquires whether the judge’s re-election committee may call people who previously had served as jurors in cases over which the judge presided. The judge also inquires whether the judge should continue the practice of speaking to the jurors after the verdict, to assure that there was no bias, misconduct or duress involved in reaching the verdict. The judge also collects the names, addresses and telephone numbers of the jurors so the court can easily reach the jurors, in the event of a case of jury tampering or jury prejudice.
In its 1990 report (p.28), the Commission on Judicial Conduct specifically cautioned some judges for engaging in impermissible political activity by contacting individuals who had served as jurors in the judges’ courts to ask their support in the judges’ re-election campaigns. This Committee is in accord with that caution, and believes that neither the inquiring judge nor the judge’s re-election committee may call former jurors concerning the re-election campaign.
Section 100.2(a) of the Rules of the Chief Administrator provides that a judge shall respect and comply with the law and shall conduct himself or herself at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Section 100.3(a)(4) of the Rules provides that, “a judge shall accord to every person who is legally interested in a matter, or his or her lawyer, full right to be heard according to law and except, as authorized by law, neither initiate nor consider ex parte or other communication concerning a pending or impending matter.”
While a judge is not prohibited from speaking to a jury after the verdict, a judge should not inquire as to whether verdicts have been properly arrived at, without a proper evidentiary foundation. Such practice unnecessarily intrudes upon the deliberations of the jury and should be avoided.
Section 509 of the Judiciary Law provides that juror questionnaires and records “shall be considered confidential and shall not be disclosed except to the county jury board or as permitted by the appellate division.” Accordingly, the judge should not record the names, addresses and telephone numbers of jurors who have served in cases before the judge or transmit them to the re-election committee for use in campaigning.