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Having a trial date around the holidays is often thought of as a blessing to civil plaintiffs and criminal defendants. That's because basic human nature and holiday cheer can work in concert causing juries to render massive verdicts and questionable acquittals.
If this sounds a bit far-fetched, it's likely due to the fact that there is little to no research to support this notion, but, nevertheless, this notion has been around for quite some time. Despite the lack of evidence, a Pennsylvania courthouse once suspended all trials from mid-December through New Year in order to avoid the inherent juror bias.
Drunk on Holiday Spirit
The cancellation of trials at the Pennsylvania courthouse dates back to 1993. The justices agreed that jurors would be more likely to acquit criminal defendants because of all the good will and holiday spirit that decorated both the inside and outside of the courthouse. Despite what the court believed, criminal defense attorneys disagreed about the holiday advantage.
However, the one thing that those defense attorneys and the court agree on is that the jurors would be overly inclined to render a verdict quickly in order to get home to their families and be done with jury duty.
Swinging for the Holiday Fences
While it may be disputed whether juries are more generous, or just lazier and hastier, during the holiday season, the basic idea behind juries tending to award larger holiday season verdicts makes sense. People are more giving during the holidays, and if there's been a clear injury and someone is seeking non-economic damages, juries will be willing to give more (especially since it's not their money).
However, the risk of an impatient jury is very real. Despite the holiday spirit generosity, jury duty could be cutting into vacation time from work, or even holiday travel plans. Don't rely on the holiday spirit to make a juror like your client after their case caused the juror to miss out on the traditional trip to grandma's. If a case is rather complex and the damages, injury, or causation, are not clear, you may not want a jury to rush through deliberations.
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