Center Square

Tennessee Court Advisory Board Will Look at Alternate Juror Dismissal Timing

April 5, 2024

(The Center Square)—The Tennessee Advisory Commission on Rules of Practice and Procedure listened to a proposal to keep alternate jurors on even after deliberations begin in a criminal case during its Friday public meeting.

Circuit Court Judge Russ Parkes said the proposal came so cases did not have to be delayed or declared a mistrial if a juror becomes ill or is unable to continue after deliberations have begun in a case.

Currently, alternate jurors are dismissed when the jury goes to deliberation.

Parkes proposed that instead a judge would be allowed to have discretion on whether to discharge the jurors when the case goes to deliberations.

If an alternate juror is then placed into a jury after deliberations have begun, the jury is ordered to begin all deliberations anew at that point.

Parkes said the specific case where he saw it happen came after an eight-day trial.

Commission Chair Gino Bulso assigned an ad hoc committee to investigate the topic and come back with a recommendation at the commission’s June 21 meeting.

The commission meetings have been forced open after a March 2023 preliminary injunction in a lawsuit from The Center Square Vice President of News and Content Dan McCaleb. McCaleb is represented by the Liberty Justice Center.

The group also held a livestream of its December meeting, where it discussed the streamlining of the rules for filing motions in appellate court, the rules for experts in court and the rules for appealing based on a perceived area in the court’s finding of fact.

McCaleb sued on First Amendment grounds to open the meetings, where the committee discusses court rule changes that it will recommend the Tennessee General Assembly pass.