A juror with a link to a Michael Moore film was thrown off the jury in Terra Firma Capital Partners Ltd.’s trial against Citigroup Inc. after the judge commented on the movie’s appeal to “anti-bank prejudice.”
U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff excused the woman, a New York dancer and circus performer who was Juror No. 6, after determining that she lied about an unrelated conversation on a courthouse elevator during a break, according to a court transcript.
“It seems to me, that given that we have a juror who has lied to the court about an important matter, that we need to excuse her,” Rakoff told lawyers in the case yesterday.
The dismissal leaves eight jurors to begin deliberations on Terra Firma’s $2.2 billion claim against Citigroup over the 2007 sale of EMI Group Ltd.
Ted Wells, the lead lawyer for Citigroup, told Rakoff that the juror and her husband were among dozens of people thanked in the credits of “Capitalism: A Love Story.”
Rakoff, who said he hadn’t seen the film, said it appeared to be “an extremely one-sided, scurrilous appeal to anti-bank prejudice.” The 2009 film explores “the disastrous impact of corporate dominance on the everyday lives of Americans,” according to Moore’s website, michaelmoore.com.
Wells argued that Juror No. 6, on the basis of her connection to the film, should be thrown off the Manhattan federal jury.
“Out of nine people, I have one associated with the Michael Moore movie who’s taking notes like a person possessed,” Wells said, referring to the beginning of the case, when Terra Firma was presenting its side. “We started putting in our case and suddenly we’re seeing a different person.”
Wells said his side searched the juror’s name on Google.com on Nov. 1 and discovered her connection to the film.
“I don’t know who she is,” Moore said yesterday in a phone interview. “I’ve never met her.”
“I think he’s amazingly perceptive,” Moore said about Rakoff’s opinion of his work. “It’s kind of like if I were making a documentary about slavery, it would be kind of one-sided in favor of the slaves and against slaveholders.”
Moore agreed with Rakoff, who said in the hearing that “Michael Moore could not be a fair and impartial juror in this case.”
“I just would have stood up and shouted, ‘Guilty!’” Moore said, laughing. “They’re all guilty, your honor.”
Moore said he hoped the juror didn’t get dismissed because of her connection to his film. And he said he sympathized with Citigroup.
“You’ve got to feel sorry for Citigroup,” Moore said. “They’re paying all this money to their attorneys and they didn’t bother to Google her till last night.”
After investigating, Moore discovered the juror’s connection to the film, he said later in an e-mail.
“She and her husband did not work and were not hired on the film,” Moore said. “We shot a scene of Santas who were out of work due to the recession and she was a Santa’s helper to her husband’s Santa and they weren’t getting hired two months after the ‘08 crash.”
After Citigroup raised questions about the juror, a court reporter told Rakoff that she shared an elevator with four jurors, including Juror No. 6, at the lunch break.
“The juror in question said, ‘What could they possibly have this afternoon?’” said the court reporter, Rebecca Forman, according to a transcript. “‘It seems they’re just carrying on. The problem with too much information is you don’t know what to focus on.’”
When Rakoff questioned the juror about the elevator incident, she denied making the remarks.
“It wasn’t me,” she told Rakoff.
Rakoff said he would order his courtroom deputy to phone Juror No. 6 and tell her that she was dismissed. He ordered that the juror not communicate with anyone about the case until the remaining jurors reach a verdict in the case.
The case is Terra Firma Investments (GP) 2 Ltd. v. Citigroup, 09-cv-10459, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).