Rule change: Judges can order that jury information not be disclosed
By Kara Kiminsky, Esq., Assistant Reporter, Rules Committee
A rule change, effective this September, expressly allows Maryland Circuit Court judges to order nondisclosure of jurors’ names and places of residence in criminal trials when the judge determines that juror safety, harassment or tampering is a concern.
The Court of Appeals adopted a rule change that outlines the process by which a judge may order nondisclosure of jurors’ names and cities or towns of residence if he or she “finds from clear and convincing evidence or information, after affording the parties an opportunity to be heard, that disclosure of the names or the city or town of residence of prospective jurors will create a substantial danger that (i) the safety and security of one or more jurors will likely be imperiled, or (ii) one or more jurors will likely be subjected to coercion, inducement, other improper influence, or undue harassment.”
The judge may order that prospective jurors’ names and cities or towns of residence not be disclosed during the questioning of prospective jurors, known as “voir dire.” For impaneled juries, the judge may order that juror information not be disclosed (i) until after the jury is dismissed at the end of a trial, (ii) for a limited time after the trial ends, or (iii) at any time. In making the rule change, the Court of Appeals indicated that nondisclosure orders should be used rarely.
Additionally, regardless of whether a judge orders nondisclosure, the rule change requires that jurors in criminal trials be referred to by juror number, and not by name, in open court.
The entire Court of Appeals Rules Order pertaining to the Court of Appeals Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure’s 168th Report, including the amendment to Rule 4-312 that allows nondisclosure of juror information, is available online at www.mdcourts.gov/rules/rodocs/168ro-rule4-312.pdf.