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Davis v. Husain

Supreme Court of New Jersey

September 24, 2014, Argued; December 23, 2014, Decided

A-34 September Term 2013, 072425

Opinion

 [**440]  [*273]   JUSTICE LaVECCHIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

This appeal addresses a trial judge's post-verdict ex parte discussion with the jury. During the discussion, one juror commented about a witness's conduct when the witness took the oath [*274]  prior to testifying. Counsel were informed of the comment. Concerns about the substance of the comment, as well as how it should have been handled, arose during post-verdict motion practice; those same concerns divided the Appellate Division majority and dissent in this appeal as of right.

Notwithstanding prior discouragement of such post-verdict ex parte discussions between a trial judge and jurors, the practice persists, as this matter demonstrates. To bring an end to such practices, ] we hold that under no circumstances may post-verdict discussions occur [***10]  between the court and discharged jurors, unless those discussions are part of a hearing ordered on good cause shown pursuant to Rule 1:16-1. For the reasons that follow, we remand this matter for further proceedings.

The trial in this matter focused on plaintiff Tomikia Davis's claims of sexual harassment advanced against her former employer, defendant Dr. Abbas Husain.

In November 2007, Davis filed a complaint against Husain, as well as her other employer, Dr. Mira Kheny, with whom Husain shared medical office space. The complaint alleged violations of New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination (LAD), N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 to -49, based on hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and retaliation claims. Husain and Kheny filed separate answers; Kheny subsequently settled with Davis.

The trial on the claims against Husain largely turned on credibility. Davis testified and described the alleged instances of harassment; Husain testified and denied each such incident. Husain also produced co-workers who claimed that they neither saw any incidents occur nor heard Davis complain that they had occurred. In particular, the following evidence was adduced at trial.

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220 N.J. 270 *; 106 A.3d 438 **; 2014 N.J. LEXIS 1391 ***; 125 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1029; 98 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P45,226

TOMIKA DAVIS, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT, v. ABBAS HUSAIN, M.D., DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.

Subsequent History: Decision reached on appeal by Davis v. Husain, 2019 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 469 (App.Div., Mar. 1, 2019)

Prior History:  [***1] On appeal from the Superior Court, Appellate Division.

Davis v. Husain, 2013 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 583 (App.Div., Mar. 13, 2013)

CORE TERMS

jurors, deliberations, post-verdict, conversation, interactions, touch, certification, harassment, sexual

Civil Procedure, Trials, Jury Trials, Jury Deliberations, Criminal Law & Procedure, Juries & Jurors, Jury Deliberations, General Overview, Privacy of Deliberations, Outside Influences, Appeals, Reversible Error, Juries & Jurors, Legal Ethics, Judicial Conduct, Governments, Courts, Rule Application & Interpretation