Newman, LLC v. Roberts

During jury selection in this civil case, plaintiff challenged a juror for cause. The trial court denied the challenge, and in response, plaintiff exercised one of his peremptory challenges to excuse the juror. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in denying plaintiff's challenge, reversed and remanded for a new trial without examining whether the error was harmless. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed and remanded. As the Court detailed in "Colorado v. Novotny," (320 P.3d 1194 (2014)), the automatic reversal rule in the criminal context rested on the assumption that impairment of the ability to shape the jury through peremptory challenges affected a "substantial right," and amounted to a due process violation. Such impairment was per se reversible and not subject to harmless error review. "[H]owever, subsequent developments in U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence wiped away the foundations of that assumption, suggesting that an error regarding the ability to shape the jury is not a due process violation, and would affect a substantial right only if it substantially affected the outcome of the trial." The Court overruled Colorado cases to the contrary and held that allowing a civil litigant fewer peremptory challenges than authorized, or than available to and exercised by the opposing party, does not, by itself, require automatic reversal. Reviewing courts must determine whether the error substantially influenced the outcome of the case in accordance with the civil harmless error rule. View "Newman, LLC v. Roberts" on Justia Law