Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Golden Rule Argument Definition:

A suggestion made to a jury that it place itself in the defendant's position.

Related Terms: Golden Rule, Jury

Not to be confused with the golden rule tenet of construction or of interpretation, the golden rule argument refers to an improper personal plea made to a jury.

Wrote Justice Heaney of the United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit in Lovett v Union Pacific:

"(The) Golden Rule argument asks the jury to place itself in the defendant's position.... Such an argument is universally condemned because it encourages the jury to depart from neutrality and to decide the case on the basis of personal interest and bias rather than on the evidence."

In almost identical wording, Justice Cobb of the District Court of Appeal of Florida, in Shaffer v Ward, used these words:

"The Golden Rule argument urges the jury to place themselves in a party's position to allow recovery as they would want were they the party. To be impermissible, the argument must strike at that sensitive area of financial responsibility and hypothetically request the jury to consider how much they would wish to receive in a similar situation.

"Such an argument is improper because it encourages the jury to depart from neutrality and to decide the case on the basis of personal interest and bias, rather than on the evidence...."

"... the Golden Rule (argument) violation was a fundamental error notwithstanding that the plaintiff's counsel made no objection at the time, as the same were not capable of cure by instruction and rebuke."

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