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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Juror Sues Over Intrusive Questionnaire

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - A Tulane graduate student sued a state judge in Federal Court, demanding the return of a 7-page jury-selection questionnaire that asked intrusive questions, including the name of his church, and whether he has ever been affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union, The National Organization of Women, or Amnesty International.

Joshua Galjour, a Swiss national who is a graduate student at Tulane's School of Public Heath and Tropical Medicine, says he filled out the intrusive questionnaire because he was afraid he could be prosecuted if he refused.

Galjour says the questions included: "Have you ever belonged to or been involved with the American Civil Liberties Union, or the National Organization of Women, or Amnesty International? ... if the answer is yes please list the group you had contact with and explain your participation."

The complaint adds: "There was no indication given as to the nature of the case for which the plaintiff had been summoned to serve on a jury and no indication of the relevance of the questions on the questionnaire to the facts of any specific case," according to the complaint.

"The questionnaire included requests for information that the plaintiff believed to be highly personal, intrusive and not relevant to his ability or qualification to serve as a juror.

"The plaintiff was a graduate student at Tulane University taking a heavy course load when he was summoned for jury duty and, therefore, requested from the defendants an exemption from jury service.

"The plaintiff was informed that in order to have his exemption considered, he had to first fill out the 7-page questionnaire and return it to the jury office. Concerned about the penalty for refusing to answer the questionnaire and his ability to obtain an exemption, the plaintiff answered each question contained therein, forwarded the questionnaire to the jury office, and was ultimately granted an exemption for jury service.

"However, on information and belief, plaintiff's sensitive, personal, and private information is still on file with the 17th Judicial District Court."

Galjour says the questionnaire also asked about his mental health history, whether he is taking antipsychotic drugs, his religious affiliation, and for the name of the church he attends, if any.

Galjour considers that information deeply sensitive and highly personal, "such that being compelled to answer would constitute his First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights." But since the subpoena stated: "Herein fail not under penalty of the law," he was afraid being prosecuted if he did not fill out the questionnaire and send it to the chambers of Judge Jerome Barbera III, as requested.

Galjour wants his questionnaire destroyed, and the court enjoined "from issuing jury questionnaires that seek to compel the disclosure of constitutionally protected private information."

Galjour sued the 17th Judicial District Court of Lafourche Parish and Judge Jerome Barbera III. He represented by Katie Schwartzmann with the ACLU's Baton Rouge office.

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