The following outlines the general trial procedure where a jury trial is being held in the Chancery Court for Madison County, Tennessee and in other counties in the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District.
1. The number of jurors will generally be twelve (12), but may be less than twelve if the parties agree.
2. The court will authorize two (2) additional jurors who will have the same rights, duties, and obligations as the regular jurors.
3. The court will empanel fourteen (14) jurors and at the end of the proof, will select twelve (12) jurors by lot under Rule 47.02 (1) and discharge the others. During the jury selection, or the trial of the case, there shall be no distinction made by the court as to which jurors are additional jurors and which are regular jurors. At the close of the proof, after the court selects the twelve (12) to be the deliberating jurors, the other remaining jurors not selected shall be discharged.
4. Selection process:
a. Attorneys may address the entire panel and introduce themselves and make brief non-argumentative remarks that inform the potential jurors of the general nature of the case
b. Attorneys may voir dire the jurors. The main panel will be held outside the courtroom and the twelve (12) jurors in the jury box will be voir dired in all other’s presence.
c. Back striking of jurors will be allowed.
d. The plaintiff will have four peremptory challenges, plus one for each additional juror. Defendants will have four peremptory challenges, plus one for each juror. If there are two defendants, or two plaintiffs, four additional peremptory challenges will be granted. Neither side will have more than eight peremptory challenges regardless of the number of parties on that side. See Tennessee Code Annotated § 22-3-105.
5. Challenges for cause:
a. Challenges for cause will be done first. Then, when the jury is passed for cause, counsel will simultaneously submit in writing to the Chancellor the name of any juror in the first group of twelve (or fourteen if there are additional jurors) of the jurors challenged by them peremptorily. The jurors challenged will be excused and replacements will be seated. The process will then begin again with challenges for cause, then peremptory challenges.
b. The Chancellor will keep a list of the jurors challenged and if the same juror is challenged by both sides, each will be charged with a challenge. There will be no disclosure to the jurors as to who challenged that particular juror.
6. Juror information- Rule 43A:
a. Jurors may take notes during the trial.
b. Note taking materials will be included in juror notebooks.
c. Notes taken by jurors will be collected by court personnel after the verdict and destroyed.
7. Juror notebooks- Rule 43A.02:
a. Juror notebooks shall be provided by the party requesting the jury trial.
b. Copies of exhibits or pertinent parts of large exhibits shall be furnished, punched and tabbed, for the notebooks. Plaintiff’s exhibits will be in the front section and defendants exhibits in the back section.
c. Counsel will place page numbers on multi-page exhibits.
d. Counsel will provide an index to exhibits in the front of the notebook, plus a page containing the names of each attorney and who they represent.
e. Jury instructions will be in the notebook.
8. Juror questions - Rule 43A.03
a. Jurors may propound questions to a witness as described in Rule 43A.03.
b. The court will consult with counsel and decide whether to ask the questions requested and in what format.
c. The court will instruct jurors prior to the beginning of trial as to the procedure for propounding questions.
9. Interim commentary - Rule 44A
a. Counsel, when they have the floor, may request to address the jury during the course of the trial in order to assist jurors in understanding the evidence that has been, or will be, presented.
b. The time limit for such an address to the jury will be three minutes.
c. Opposing counsel will be allowed to respond to the jury with a time limit of three minutes.
10. List of issues - Tennessee Code Annotated §36-4-113.
a. Each side will prepare a list of issues to be decided by the jury designed to elicit a yes or no response.
11. Opening statements:
a. A plaintiff/counter-defendant will be allowed twenty minutes for opening statements.
b. A defendant/counter-plaintiff will be allowed twenty minutes for opening statements.
12. Jurors must agree on all issues finally submitted. If they do not agree, after appropriate deliberations, the court will declare a mistrial and order a new trial.
13. Disability of jurors:
a. If more than three jurors become sick, disabled, or incompetent to continue service after being impaneled, the court may discharge them and either grant a new trial or, if the parties agree, continue the trial and determine the issues by the remaining jurors.
14. Unanimous verdict:
a. Prior to impaneling a jury, counsel for the parties may agree to accept a verdict by less than 100% of the impaneled jurors; i.e., in a jury of twelve, the attorneys could agree to accept a majority verdict of seven, eight, or more, but less than twelve.
15. Jury instructions:
a. The court will prepare and deliver preliminary jury instructions.
b. Counsel shall prepare and submit to the court seven days before the trial their proposed instructions relevant to the issues in their respective complaints, counter-complaints, and as to any defenses.
16. Jury verdict form:
a. The court will prepare the jury verdict form after receiving proposed verdict forms from counsel.