__ U.S. __ (2014), 13-517, Warger v. Shauers

Docket Nº13-517
Citation__ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 521, 190 L.Ed.2d 422, 83 U.S.L.W. 4017, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 9
Opinion JudgeSotomayor, J.
Party NameGREGORY P. WARGER, Petitioner v. RANDY D. SHAUERS
AttorneyKannon K. Shanmugam argued the cause for petitioner. Sheila L. Birnbaum argued the cause for respondent. Sarah E. Harrington argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court.
Case DateDecember 09, 2014
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page __

__ U.S. __ (2014)

135 S.Ct. 521, 190 L.Ed.2d 422, 83 U.S.L.W. 4017, 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 9

GREGORY P. WARGER, Petitioner

v.

RANDY D. SHAUERS

No. 13-517

United States Supreme Court

December 9, 2014

Argued October 8, 2014.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT

Affirmed.

SYLLABUS

Petitioner Gregory Warger sued respondent Randy Shauers in federal court for negligence for injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident. After the jury returned a verdict for Shauers, one of the jurors contacted Warger's counsel, claiming that Regina Whipple, the jury foreperson, had revealed during deliberations that her daughter had been at fault in a fatal motor vehicle accident, and that a lawsuit would have ruined her daughter's life. Armed with an affidavit from the juror, Warger moved for a new trial, arguing that Whipple had deliberately lied during voir dire about her impartiality and ability to award damages. The District Court denied Warger's motion, holding that Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), which bars evidence " about any statement made . . . during the jury's deliberations," barred the affidavit, and that none of the Rule's three exceptions, see Rule 606(b)(2), were applicable. The Eighth Circuit affirmed.

Held:

1. Rule 606(b) applies to juror testimony during a proceeding in which a party seeks to secure a new trial on the ground that a juror lied during voir dire. Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 428-432.

[135 S.Ct. 523] (a) This reading accords with the plain meaning of Rule 606(b), which applies to " an inquiry into the validity of [the] verdict." This understanding is also consistent with the underlying common-law rule on which Congress based Rule 606(b). The so-called " federal rule" made jury deliberations evidence inadmissible even if used to demonstrate dishonesty during voir dire. Both the majority of courts and this Court's pre-Rule 606(b) cases, see McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 268, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300; Clark v. United States, 289 U.S. 1, 53 S.Ct. 465, 77 L.Ed. 993, favored this rule over the " Iowa rule," which permitted the use of such jury deliberations evidence. The federal approach is clearly reflected in the language Congress chose when it enacted Rule 606(b), and legislative history confirms that Congress' choice was no accident. See Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 125, 107 S.Ct. 2739, 97 L.Ed.2d 90. Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 428-430.

(b) Warger's arguments against this straightforward understanding are not persuasive. Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 430-432.

(1) First, Warger insists that proceedings for a new trial based on voir dire dishonesty do not involve an " inquiry into the validity of the verdict." His reading would restrict Rule 606(b)s application to claims of error for which a court must examine the manner in which the jury reached its verdict, but the Rule does not focus on the means by which deliberations evidence might be used to invalidate a verdict. It simply applies during a proceeding in which a verdict may be rendered invalid. Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 430-431.

(2) Warger also contends that excluding jury deliberations evidence that shows voir dire dishonesty is unnecessary to fulfill Congress' objectives, but his arguments would apply to all evidence rendered inadmissible by Rule 606(b), and he cannot escape the scope of the Rule merely by asserting that Congress' concerns were misplaced. P. ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 431.

(3) Finally, Warger invokes the canon of constitutional avoidance, contending that only his interpretation protects the right to an impartial jury. But that canon has no application here, where there is no ambiguity. See United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop., 532 U.S. 483, 494, 121 S.Ct. 1711, 149 L.Ed.2d 722. Moreover, this Court's Tanner decision forecloses any claim that Rule 606(b) is unconstitutional. Similar to the right at issue in that case, Warger's right to an impartial jury remains protected despite Rule 606(b)s removal of one means of ensuring unbiased jurors. Even if a juror lies to conceal bias, parties may bring to the court's attention evidence of bias before the verdict is rendered and use nonjuror evidence after the verdict is rendered. Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 431-432.

2. The affidavit at issue was not admissible under Rule 606(b)(2)(A)s exception for evidence of " extraneous prejudicial information." Generally speaking, extraneous information derives from a source " external" to the jury. See Tanner, 483 U.S., at 117, 107 S.Ct. 2739, 97 L.Ed.2d 90. Here, the excluded affidavit falls on the " internal" side. Warger contends that any information Whipple shared with the other jurors was extraneous because she would have been disqualified from the jury had she disclosed her daughter's accident. However, such an exception would swallow up much of the rest of the restrictive version of the common-law rule that Congress adopted in enacting Rule 606(b). Pp. ___ - ___, 190 L.Ed.2d, at 432-433.

721 F.3d 606, affirmed.

Kannon K. Shanmugam argued the cause for petitioner.

Sheila L. Birnbaum argued the cause for respondent.

Sarah E. Harrington argued the cause for the United States, as amicus curiae, by special leave of court.

OPINION

[135 S.Ct. 524] Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) provides that certain juror testimony regarding what occurred in a jury room is inadmissible " [d]uring an inquiry into the validity of a verdict." The question presented in this case is whether Rule 606(b) precludes a party seeking a new trial from using one juror's affidavit of what another juror said in deliberations to demonstrate the other juror's dishonesty during voir dire. We hold that it does.

I

Petitioner Gregory Warger was riding his motorcycle on a highway outside Rapid City, South Dakota, when a truck driven by respondent Randy Shauers struck him from behind. Warger claims he was stopped at the time of the accident, while Shauers claims that Warger suddenly pulled out in front of him. Regardless of the cause of the accident, no one disputes its tragic result: Warger sustained serious injuries that ultimately required the amputation of his left leg.

Warger sued Shauers for negligence in Federal District Court. During jury selection, counsel for both parties conducted lengthy voir dire of the prospective jurors. Warger's counsel asked whether any jurors would be unable to award damages for pain and suffering or for future medical expenses, or whether there was any juror who thought, " I don't think I could be a fair and impartial juror on this kind of case." App. 105. Prospective juror Regina Whipple, who was later selected as the jury foreperson, answered no to each of these questions. See id., at 83, 89, 105.

Trial commenced, and the jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of Shauers. Shortly thereafter, one of the jurors contacted Warger's counsel to express concern over juror Whipple's conduct. The complaining juror subsequently signed an affidavit claiming that Whipple had spoken during deliberations about " a motor vehicle collision in which her daughter was at fault for the collision and a man died," and had " related that if her daughter had been sued, it would have ruined her life." App. to Pet. for Cert. 40a-41a.

Relying on this affidavit, Warger moved for a new trial. He contended that Whipple had deliberately lied during voir dire about her impartiality and ability to award damages. Thus, he asserted, he had satisfied the requirements of [135 S.Ct. 525] McDonough Power Equipment, Inc. v. Greenwood, 464 U.S. 548, 104 S.Ct. 845, 78 L.Ed.2d 663 (1984), which holds that a party may " obtain a new trial" if he " demonstrate[s] that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question on voir dire, and . . . that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause." Id., at 556, 104 S.Ct. 845, 78 L.Ed.2d 663.

The District Court refused to grant a new trial, holding that the only evidence that supported Warger's motion, the complaining juror's affidavit, was barred by Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b). As relevant here, that Rule provides that " [d]uring an inquiry into the validity of a verdict," evidence " about any statement made or incident that occurred during the jury's deliberations" is inadmissible. Rule 606(b)(1). The Rule contains three specific exceptions--allowing testimony " about whether (A) extraneous prejudicial information was improperly brought to the jury's attention; (B) an outside influence was improperly brought to bear on any juror; or (C) a mistake was made in entering the verdict on the verdict form," Rule 606(b)(2)--but the District Court found none of these exceptions to be applicable.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed. 721 F.3d 606 (2013). It first held that Warger's proffered evidence did not fall within the " extraneous prejudicial evidence" exception set forth in Rule 606(b)(2)(A). The court explained that " [j]urors' personal experiences do not constitute extraneous information; it is unavoidable they will bring such innate experiences into the jury room." Id., at 611. Next, the court rejected Warger's alternative argument that Rule 606(b) is wholly inapplicable when a litigant offers evidence to show that a juror was dishonest during voir dire. Acknowledging that there was a split among the Federal Courts of Appeals on this question, the Eighth Circuit joined those Circuits that had held that Rule 606(b) applies to any proceeding in which the jury's verdict might be invalidated, including efforts to demonstrate that a juror lied during voir dire. Compare id., at 611-612 (citing Williams v. Price, 343 F.3d 223, 235-237 (CA3 2003), and United States v. Benally, 546 F.3d 1230, 1235 (CA10 2008)), with Hard v. Burlington N. R. Co., 812 F.2d 482, 485 (CA9 1987) (" Statements which...

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138 practice notes
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Florida
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    ...subject only to the express exceptions for extraneous information and outside influences." Warger v. Shauers, __ U.S. __, __, 135 S.Ct. 521, 527, 190 L.Ed.2d 422 (2014) (emphasis added). I believe that it is clear that I have already made the only permissible inquiry here, that i......
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
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    ..."[I]nformation is deemed extraneous' if it derives from a source external' to the jury." Warger v. Shauers, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 521, 529 (2014) (citing Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 117 (1987)). "External' matters include publicity and information related specifi......
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    ...to calling jurors to the stand, it is hard to say this approach is not the preferable one. (283.) See Tanner, 483 U.S. at 127. (284.) See 135 S. Ct. 521, 530 (2014) (extending Tanners reasoning and referencing expressly its "extraneous information" (285.) See Pena-Rodriguez, 137 S......
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    • 1 Febrero 2019
    ...our common law heritage"). (203.) 483 U.S. 107(1987). (204.) Tanner, 483 U.S. at 127. (205.) 135S. Ct. 521 (2014). (206.) Warger, 135 S. Ct. at 529. (207.) United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 361, 366 (208.) See McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 268-69 (1915) (suggesting the possib......
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126 cases
  • 102 F.Supp.3d 1281 (M.D.Fla. 2015), 3:09-CV-13250, Starbuck v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 11th Circuit Middle District of Florida
    • 4 Mayo 2015
    ...subject only to the express exceptions for extraneous information and outside influences." Warger v. Shauers, __ U.S. __, __, 135 S.Ct. 521, 527, 190 L.Ed.2d 422 (2014) (emphasis added). I believe that it is clear that I have already made the only permissible inquiry here, that i......
  • Tow v. Speer, 031015 TXSDC, H-11-3700
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • 10 Marzo 2015
    ..."[I]nformation is deemed extraneous' if it derives from a source external' to the jury." Warger v. Shauers, ___ U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 521, 529 (2014) (citing Tanner v. United States, 483 U.S. 107, 117 (1987)). "External' matters include publicity and information related specifi......
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    ...of the party assigning [them].” Warger v. Shauers, 721 F.3d 606, 609 (8th Cir. 2013) cert. granted, 134 S.Ct. 1491 (2014) and aff'd, 135 S.Ct. 521 (2014). Only when such prejudicial error(s) occurs is there a miscarriage of justice necessitating a new trial. Trickey v. Kaman Indus. Technolo......
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    ...trial court denied Plaintiffs' Motion for New Trial and, relying on 12 O.S. §2606 (B) and Warger v. Shauers, 574 U.S. ___, 135 S.Ct. 521 (2014), declined to admit the affidavits submitted to support Plaintiffs' allegations the jury was influenced by extraneous prejudicia......
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3 firm's commentaries
  • SCOTUS Carves Out an Exception to the No-Impeachment Rule
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • 30 Noviembre 2017
    ...exception for evidence that some jurors were under the influence of drugs and alcohol during the trial. Similarly, in Warger v. Shauers, 135 S. Ct. 521, 525 (2014), the Court prohibited a party from using a juror affidavit about what another juror said during deliberations to show the other......
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    • Mondaq United States
    • 13 Octubre 2015
    ...controversy. Rule 606(b) precludes a party from using a juror's affidavit about deliberations to obtain a new trial. Warger v. Shauers, 135 S.Ct. 521 (2014). In a rare evidentiary ruling, the Supreme Court held that Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) precludes a party seeking a new trial from ......
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    ...a single action that is consolidated in multidistrict litigation for pretrial proceedings is immediately appealable. Warger v. Shauers, 135 S. Ct. 521 (Dec. 9, 2014) The Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b) bar against jury deliberation evidence applies to a proceeding in which a party seeks to ......
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    ...to calling jurors to the stand, it is hard to say this approach is not the preferable one. (283.) See Tanner, 483 U.S. at 127. (284.) See 135 S. Ct. 521, 530 (2014) (extending Tanners reasoning and referencing expressly its "extraneous information" (285.) See Pena-Rodriguez, 137 S......
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    • Michigan Law Review Vol. 117 Nbr. 4, February 2019
    • 1 Febrero 2019
    ...our common law heritage"). (203.) 483 U.S. 107(1987). (204.) Tanner, 483 U.S. at 127. (205.) 135S. Ct. 521 (2014). (206.) Warger, 135 S. Ct. at 529. (207.) United States v. Reid, 53 U.S. (12 How.) 361, 366 (208.) See McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 268-69 (1915) (suggesting the possib......
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