News Roundup

Afternoon Briefs: Peremptory challenge curbs allowed; more federal courts halt jury trials

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Juror shortages lead to curbs on peremptory challenges

Judges in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, are allowed to ban or reduce peremptory challenges in civil cases to avoid running out of potential jurors. Judges asked and received permission from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to make the change because of a drop in would-be jurors who are showing up to court. (The Legal Intelligencer, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order)

25 federal courts suspend jury trials or grand juries

Twenty-five federal courts have recently suspended jury trials or grand jury proceedings in response to a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases. Another dozen courts have continued suspensions already in place. While the suspensions are occurring through the country, many are taking place in cold-weather areas in the North, Midwest and Plains states. (Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts press release)

Realtors group agrees to commission transparency

The U.S. Department of Justice has revealed a proposed antitrust settlement with the National Association of Realtors that increases transparency about commissions received by brokers representing home buyers. Current NAR rules prevent multiple listing services from publicly disclosing the commission that a buyer’s broker will receive from the home seller. The association admits no liability or wrongdoing and would not have to pay any fines under the agreement. (Law360, National Association of Realtors summary, Department of Justice press release)

Michael Avenatti sues Fox News for alleged libel

Suspended lawyer Michael Avenatti has filed a $250 million libel suit against Fox News for its coverage of his arrest for alleged domestic violence. He was never charged. Avenatti claims that the network is a “de facto media and propaganda arm” of the White House that sought to eliminate him as a threat to President Donald Trump’s reelection. Avenatti had considered running for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he took himself out of contention in late 2018. He has been convicted for trying to extort Nike and is accused of stealing from his former client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels. (Law360, the Volokh Conspiracy, the lawsuit)

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