Donald v. Pless, No. 283

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtLamar
Citation59 L.Ed. 1300,238 U.S. 264,35 S.Ct. 783
PartiesD. J. McDONALD and United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, Petitioners, v. J. W. PLESS and J. W. Winbourne, Partners, etc., as Pless & Winbourne
Docket NumberNo. 283
Decision Date14 June 1915

238 U.S. 264
35 S.Ct. 783
59 L.Ed. 1300
D. J. McDONALD and United States Fidelity & Guaranty Company, Petitioners,

v.

J. W. PLESS and J. W. Winbourne, Partners, etc., as Pless & Winbourne.

No. 283.
Argued May 13, 1915.
Decided June 14, 1915.

Page 265

Messrs. Julius C. Martin, Thomas S. Rollins, and George H. Wright for petitioners.

Mr. Joseph W. Bailey for respondents.

Mr. Justice Lamar delivered the opinion of the court:

Pless & Winbourne, attorneys at law, brought suit in the superior court of McDowell county, North Carolina, against McDonald to recover $4,000 alleged to be due them for legal services. The case was removed to the then circuit court of the United States for the western district of North Carolina. There was a trial in which the jury returned a verdict for $2,916 in favor of Pless & Winbourne. The defendant McDonald moved to set aside the verdict on the ground that when the jury retired the foreman suggested that each juror should write down what he thought the plaintiffs were entitled to recover, that the aggregate of these amounts should be divided by 12, and that the quotient should be the verdict to be returned to the court. To this suggestion all assented.

The motion further averred that when the figures were read out it was found that one juror was in favor of giving plaintiffs nothing, eight named sums ranging from $500 to $4,000, and three put down $5,000. A part of the jury objected to using $5,000 as one of the factors, inasmuch as the plaintiffs were only suing for $4,000. But the three insisted that they had as much right to name a sum above $4,000 as the others had to vote for an amount less than that set out in the declaration. The various amounts were then added up and divided by 12. But by reason of including the three items of $5,000, the quotient was so much larger than had been expected that much dissatisfaction with the result was expressed by some of the jury. Others, however, insisted on standing by the bargain, and

Page 266

the protesting jurors finally yielded to the argument that they were bound by the previous agreement, and the quotient verdict was rendered accordingly.

The defendant further alleged in his motion that the jurors refused to file an affidavit, but stated that they were willing to testify to the facts alleged, provided the court thought it proper that they should do so. At the hearing of the motion one of the jurors was sworn as a witness, but the court refused to allow him to testify on the ground that a juror was incompetent to impeach his own verdict. That ruling was affirmed by the court of appeals. (124 C. C. A. 131, 206 Fed. 263.) The case was then brought here by writ of error.

On the argument here it was suggested that it was not necessary to consider the question involved as an original proposition, since the decision of the Federal court was in accordance with the rule in North Carolina (Purcell v. Southern R. Co. 119 N. C. 739, 26 S. E. 161), and therefore binding under Rev. Stat. § 914, Comp. Stat. 1913, § 1537, which requires that the practice, pleadings and forms and modes of procedure in the Federal courts shall conform as near as may be to those existing in the state within which such Federal courts are held. But neither in letter nor in spirit does the conformity act apply to the power of the court to inquire into the conduct of jurors who had been summoned to perform a duty in the administration of justice, and who, for the time being, were officers of the court. The conduct of parties, witnesses and counsel in a case, as well the conduct of the jurors and officers of the court, may be of such...

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612 practice notes
  • Tanner v. United States, No. 86-177
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1987
    ...influence, however, the Court adhered to the common-law rule against admitting juror testimony to impeach a verdict. McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915); Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 384, 32 S.Ct. 793, 808, 56 L.Ed. 1114 (1912). Lower courts used this......
  • Porter v. Gilmore, Civil Action No. 3:12CV550–HEH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • August 14, 2020
    ...misconduct sufficient to aside a verdict.’ " United States v. Moten , 582 F.2d 654, 664 (2d Cir. 1978) (quoting McDonald v. Pless , 238 U.S. 264, 267, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915) ); see Fullwood v. Lee , 290 F.3d 663, 679–80 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted) (observing that Rule 60......
  • Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, No. 15-606
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 6, 2017
    ...rule in United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, and Mattox v. United States, 146 U. S. 140, but rejecting that approach in McDonald v. Pless, 238 U. S. 264.The common-law development of the rule reached a milestone in 1975 when Congress adopted Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), which sets out a ......
  • Shukry v. Neotti, No. 2:09-cv-00669-JKS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 15, 2011
    ...influence, however, the Court adhered to the common-law rule against admitting juror testimony to impeach a verdict. McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915); Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 384, 32 S.Ct. 793, 808, 56 L.Ed. 1114 (1912).48 In this case, Shukry......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
610 cases
  • Tanner v. United States, No. 86-177
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 22, 1987
    ...influence, however, the Court adhered to the common-law rule against admitting juror testimony to impeach a verdict. McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915); Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 384, 32 S.Ct. 793, 808, 56 L.Ed. 1114 (1912). Lower courts used this......
  • Porter v. Gilmore, Civil Action No. 3:12CV550–HEH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Virginia)
    • August 14, 2020
    ...misconduct sufficient to aside a verdict.’ " United States v. Moten , 582 F.2d 654, 664 (2d Cir. 1978) (quoting McDonald v. Pless , 238 U.S. 264, 267, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915) ); see Fullwood v. Lee , 290 F.3d 663, 679–80 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted) (observing that Rule 60......
  • Pena-Rodriguez v. Colorado, No. 15-606
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • March 6, 2017
    ...rule in United States v. Reid, 12 How. 361, and Mattox v. United States, 146 U. S. 140, but rejecting that approach in McDonald v. Pless, 238 U. S. 264.The common-law development of the rule reached a milestone in 1975 when Congress adopted Federal Rule of Evidence 606(b), which sets out a ......
  • Shukry v. Neotti, No. 2:09-cv-00669-JKS
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 15, 2011
    ...influence, however, the Court adhered to the common-law rule against admitting juror testimony to impeach a verdict. McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 35 S.Ct. 783, 59 L.Ed. 1300 (1915); Hyde v. United States, 225 U.S. 347, 384, 32 S.Ct. 793, 808, 56 L.Ed. 1114 (1912).48 In this case, Shukry......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • ICEBERG AHEAD: WHY COURTS SHOULD PRESUME BIAS IN CASES OF EXTRANEOUS JUROR CONTACTS.
    • United States
    • Case Western Reserve Law Review Vol. 72 Nbr. 2, December 2021
    • December 22, 2021
    ...people said [in deliberations]." Id. (86.) Tanner, 483 U.S. at 120. (87.) Id. at 113-16. (88.) Id. at 119-20 (quoting McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264, 267-68 (89.) Id. at 120 (quoting Remmer I, 347 U.S. 227, 335 (1954)). (90.) Id. (91.) Id. at 117. (92.) Id. (93.) Id. (94.) Rushen v. Spain,......
  • Runaway Jury: An Analysis of State Laws Concerning Juror Impeachment
    • United States
    • Criminal Justice Policy Review Nbr. 31-3, April 2020
    • April 1, 2020
    ...from SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3120862 or doi: 10.2139/ssrn.3120862Mattox v. United States, 146 U.S. 140 (1892).McDonald v. Pless, 238 U.S. 264 (1915).Miller, C. (2009). Dismissed with prejudice: Why application of the anti-jury impeachment rule to allegations of racial, religious, or......

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