Federal Judge Thomas Zilly’s decision to overturn the Jeffrey Chen verdict last week came as a surprise — for more reasons than one. It was the first time in Zilly’s 25 years as a judge that he overturned a jury decision, but what’s even more shocking is how long it took to come to the decision to order a new trial.
A total of five months passed from the jury decision to the decision to order a new trial, and a total of nearly four months passed between when the motion for a new trial was called and when the decision came. It wasn’t until a month and half after arguments were finally made that Judge Zilly came out with his decision.
Those five months weren’t filled with empty air, though. During that time, the Court adjusted the jury award and wrestled with routine post-trial motions that ended ultimately all for not.
The rule of law is important, and everyone is beholden to it, but at the same time the rule of law can be very impersonal and uncaring. It’s important to remember that delays and time spent affect the actual, real people who are involved in these cases. Time spent in litigation is emotionally draining for the individuals involved, their families and friends, and their communities. The fact that post trial motions, scheduling, and arguing in this case took many times longer than the two-week trial and day worth of jury deliberation is harmful to both sides affected by the decision.
The example this new trial sets also discourages others who are being discriminated against from bringing their experience to light. After all, who wants to spend months, even years stressed and unsure? Then, after their day in court is ‘done,’ having to do it all over again?
The rule of law is important, but it’s important to remember the people too. (end)