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Strandell v. Jackson County, Illinois

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Strandell’s attorney appealed a judgment holding him in contempt for refusing to participate in a nonbinding summary jury trial.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A federal district court cannot require parties to participate in a nonbinding summary jury trial.

    Facts.

    Strandell committed suicide after being arrested, strip searched, and imprisoned in Jackson County, Illinois. Strandell’s parents filed suit seeking $500,000 in damages. At a pretrial conference, the judge suggested that the parties participate in a nonbinding summary jury trial, and Strandell’s attorney refused. The Strandell’s attorney was held in criminal contempt and was subject to a fine.

    Issue.

    Whether a federal district court can require parties to participate in a nonbinding summary jury trial?

    Held.

    No. The contempt judgment is vacated. The trial court exceeded its power by forcing the parties to participate in a nonbinding summary jury trial.

    Discussion.

    The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure did not intend to give the court to power to force parties into settlement negotiations.


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