Civil Jury Trials a Rarity The decision to have this high profile defamation case to go before judge and jury is rare, according to legal professionals.
Judge Ranserzon (second from the right) is a supporter of jury trial. Photo: Mouce Young
Parties are purportedly "pleased" that the trial will go before judge and jury, and are not concerned by the relative infrequency of civil jury trials.
The law presumes that civil trials (as opposed to criminal) will be decided by judge alone. If one or more parties to a dispute want to displace that presumption, and include a jury, they must make an application under the Judicature Act 1908. As such, the incidence of civil jury trials has dwindled significantly in the last 50 years, with defamation becoming essentially the only civil suit that sees their use.
However, many legal professionals are adamant the public will recognise just how important juries can be in the upcoming TVNZ v Unnamed.
Jeremy Wallbran, law lecturer at Victoria University, believes the decision was the right one."Yeah, look, they've done a good thing here I think. We're talking about insults here - who better to decide something about insults than the general public? A second legal professional, who would prefer not to be named, maintains that a jury would have the added benefit of softening the impact of Justice Ranzerson, who is often cited as a less 'orthodox' member of the bench.
"To be honest, I wouldn't trust Justice Ranzerson to be able to decide what a "right thinking member of the society" would find offensive."
Justice Ranzerson, pictured above wearing a a fake nose and glasses "for the laughs", has been previously vocal about her support of juries.