Friday, January 20, 2017

Five-Year Rule Stops on Swearing of Venire

Stueve v. Buchaleter Nemer, No. G052779 (D4d3 Jan. 18, 2017)

Absent grounds for tolling, a California case needs to be “brought to trial” within five years of filing. See Code Civ. Proc. §§ 583.310, 583.340, 583.360. In a jury trial situation, “brought to trial” means “when the jury is impaneled and sworn.” In this case, the venire was assembled and prospective jurors were sworn for voir dire three days before the five years was up. Five days later (including an intervening weekend) voir dire was ongoing. Defendant moved for dismissal under the five-year rule, which the trial court granted, holding that no jury had been “impaneled and sworn” when the clock ran out.

The Court of Appeal reverses. It holds that a jury is “impaneled and sworn” when the venire is assembled in the courtroom and given their initial oath to answer voir dire questions truthfully. The standard does not require the actual impaneling of the twelve-member jury who will be deciding the case or the swearing of that jury to their duties in deciding the case. Both the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure that set out how jury service works and the relevant case law bear that out.


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