N.J. Constitutional Convention: Vol. 4, Page 746


MEMORANDUM OF SAMUEL J. MARANTZ


SHALL WE END THE UNANIMITY RULE FOR VERDICTS IN CIVIL CASES?

for a verdict by less than the whole number of jurors in civil cases, and in 1880, the legislature of that state passed an act which provided that nine out of twelve jurors might render a verdict in civil cases. More recently, in 1935, New York adopted an amendment to its constitution permitting the legislature to provide that a verdict in civil cases may be rendered by a vote of five-sixths of the jurors, and a statute enacted pursuant to this constitutional provision has been in operation since September 1, 1937.14 C. P. A. section 463 (a).

Besides California, 11 states permit a verdict in civil cases by three-fourths of jury: Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma and Utah. Beside New York, five states allow a five-sixths verdict in civil cases: Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. Four state - Idaho, Louisiana, Montana and Oklahoma - permit a verdict by less than the entire jury in certain criminal cases. Under the Montana Constitution (Article 3 of the Declaration of Rights) it is provided that in civil actions, and in all criminal cases not amounting to a felony, two-thirds in number of the jury may render a verdict, and such verdict so rendered shall have the same force and effect as if all the jury concurred therein.

While the proposed amendment empowers the Legislature to permit a verdict by not less than three-fourths of the jury (as has been adopted by the majority of states which have cast aside the unanimity rule), it is to be observed that the Legislature may pass an act which would require either a three-fourths or a five-sixths rule.

At a time when so much thought and effort is being given to the reform of our judicial system so that the administration of justice will be speeded, advanced and geared to our times, the adoption of the proposed amendment would permit our Legislature to strengthen our jury system, avert unjust verdicts and costly retrials and avoid congestion in our court calendars.


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