NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Business Scandals Have Robbed Jurors of Objectivity

August 12, 2002

Almost constant revelations of business misconduct have tarred the images of even the most pristine companies in the minds of many Americans -- and that presents a problem for lawyers defending companies in legal actions. Seldom before have so many prospective jurors exhibited anti-business biases, lawyers say.

  • These problems of finding a non-biased jury is compounded by the increasing probability that jury candidates may have suffered investment losses and they are determined to "get back" at business in general.
  • Legal experts report that many jurors are showing a tendency to discredit statements by corporate executives simply because they are corporate executives.
  • Attorneys and jury consultants say the fallout is evident in everything from employment suits to intellectual property disputes.
  • In a recent survey, 1,000 people were asked to what extent they agreed with the statement: "A representative of a company will say whatever it takes to keep the company out of trouble," -- and 72 percent either agreed or strongly agreed.

Jurors are no longer immune from sweeping judgments such as misconduct by corporate managers "is a disease that infects all big companies."

In one recent mock trial -- one of more than 200 conducted around the country by DecisionQuest, a Los Angeles jury consulting firm which found consistent antibusiness bias -- jurors discussed the possibility that corporate documents may have been shredded, even though there was no allegation that they had.

Source: Michael Orey and Milo Geyelin, "Lawyers Find Jury Pools Polluted by Antibusiness Biases," Wall Street Journal, August 12, 2002.

 

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