. . . and the jurors. My God, the jurors.
In the case I was observing today, an alternate juror began weeping quietly after being picked as an alternate for a multi-week trial. They were not tears of joy. She hadn't said anything about hardship during voir dire, so everyone was mystified. She wept more in the hall during breaks, and looked red-eyed and teary during opening arguments. (And it ain't a teary case).
None of the lawyers or judge or bailiff noticed until after she was sworn, so they couldn't just add another. The rest of the voir dire panel was excused. So now they're having a closed-door hearing about it, and they may end up with only 3 alternates for a trial that could go six weeks.
But that's small potatoes, baby. For the real havoc that an unbalanced juror can cause, check out what just happened in Riverside, California in the federal court girlfight between Barbie and the Bratz chicks. The suit concerns whether the Bratz creator came up with the noxious hos before he left the Matel mother ship. It's a bruising fight between lawyers at Skadden Arps (New York vast Biglaw powerhouse that defines establishment) and Quinn Emanuel (Los Angeles hyper-aggressive frat-style bare-knuckled litigation powerhouse, where a partner once got in trouble for sending promotional mailings to potential clients in the form of a realistic-looking replica grenade with the slogan "litigation is war," resulting in several bomb-squad calls). Skadden and Quinn have been in a fight that I'm sure is generating many millions in fees, and getting into infamous squabbles such as when Skadden tried to enter into a side deal with the nicest hotel in Riverside (which is like being the most chaste member of Paris Hilton's entourage) to exclude Quinn's lawyers. These lawyers are not just being assholes. They're being $1000 an hour assholes.
Anyway, millions have gone into getting this far in the case. Mattel (represented by Quinn) won the first round on liability and was cruising into the damages phase when everyone learned that one of the eight jurors had made racist remarks about Iranians — in reaction to the testimony of the president of MGA (which owns Bratz), an Iranian-born Jew — during deliberations. Judge Stephen Larson inquired carefully of the jurors and determined that, though the slurs were made, it was late in deliberations and did not impact the result. But now the hair is on the cake. The Bratz folks are screaming racism and there will be a significant appellate issue. As a result — because of one bigoted asshole juror — Mattel's share price dropped by 3% as the market reacted to what was previously thought to be a solid (and multi-hundred-million-dollar) win for Mattel.
Judge Larson will hear the mistrial motion next week. I knew him when he was a organized crime prosecutor; he's smart and relentless and honest, and he'll get it right.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Hate Speech Debate on More Perfect Live - September 5th, 2017
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- America At The End of All Hypotheticals - August 14th, 2017
- Lawsplainer: Why John Oliver Is Anti-Diversity Now - August 11th, 2017