from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Texas
WIENER, GRAVES, and HO, Circuit Judges.
Vanity Benson ("Benson") appeals from a jury
verdict in favor of defendant Tyson Foods, Inc.
("Tyson") for disability claims that Benson brought
under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"),
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. On October 14, 2016,
a jury ruled in favor of Tyson at trial. At that time,
Benson's counsel did not move for judgment as a matter of
law. Final judgment was entered on December 8, 2016.
January 4, 2017-almost three months after the jury had been
dismissed-Benson's lawyer filed a motion for leave to
interview jurors post-trial. The next day, Benson moved for a
new trial, arguing that the jury ignored the evidence when it
concluded that she was not disabled. The district court
denied both requests, and Benson appealed.
first to her motion for a new trial under Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 59, and review the district court's
denial of that motion for abuse of discretion. Lincoln v.
Case, 340 F.3d 283, 290 (5th Cir. 2003). Where a jury
verdict is at issue, "there is no . . . abuse of
discretion unless there is a complete absence of evidence to
support the verdict." Sam's Style Shop v. Cosmos
Broad. Corp., 694 F.2d 998, 1006 (5th Cir. 1982). Here,
the jury had ample evidence that Benson was not disabled. Dr.
Jeremy Urbanczyk testified about the extent of Benson's
injury, including that her foot had healed correctly and that
she required no further treatment. Benson acknowledged that
she was able to play basketball and work two jobs that
required her to stand on her feet. And Benson admitted to
fictionalizing details in the initial account of her foot
injury, thus undermining the credibility of her testimony.
From this evidence, the jury could reasonably conclude that
she was not disabled. The district court did not abuse its
discretion in denying the motion for a new trial.
consider the appeal of the district court's order denying
her counsel's request to speak to jurors in order to
learn the basis of the verdict and improve his trial
advocacy. In Haeberle v. Texas International
Airlines, 739 F.2d 1019, 1022 (5th Cir. 1984), we held
that "[t]he first-amendment interests of both the
disgruntled litigant and its counsel in interviewing jurors
in order to satisfy their curiosity and improve their
advocacy are limited. . . . [T]hose interests are not merely
balanced but plainly outweighed by the jurors' interest
in privacy and the public's interest in well-administered
justice." Since Benson's First Amendment claim is
squarely foreclosed by our precedent, we find that the
district court committed no error in denying her
we are bound by our court's rule of orderliness to follow
Haeberle, we note that that opinion is not without
its flaws. In particular, Haeberle suggests a
distinction between the First Amendment rights of the press
and those of the public at large. Id. at 1021-22.
Such a division finds no support in either constitutional
text or precedent. See Branzburg v. Hayes, 408 U.S.
665, 684 (1972) ("It has generally been held that the
First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional
right of special access to information not available to the
public generally."). In re Express-News Corp.,
695 F.2d 807, 809 (5th Cir. 1982), which Haeberle
purports to apply, similarly recognized that the right to
gather news does not "guarantee journalists access to
sources of information not available to the public
sure, we are mindful that the government may have an interest
in regulating the speech of attorneys, given their unique
role as officers of the court. See, e.g.,
Gentile v. State Bar of Nevada, 501 U.S. 1030, 1074
(1991) ("[A lawyer is] an officer of the court, and,
like the court itself, an instrument . . . of justice. . . .
[T]he speech of lawyers representing clients in pending cases
may be regulated under a less demanding standard than that
established for regulation of the press[.]" (citations
and internal quotation marks omitted)). But here, as in
Haeberle, the district court articulated no such
interest. In light of the First Amendment interests at stake
here, which Haeberle did not appear to fully
appreciate, district courts in the future would be wise to
consider seriously whether there exists any genuine
government interest in preventing attorneys from conversing
with consenting jurors-and if so, whether that interest
should be specifically articulated, in order to facilitate
appellate review and fidelity to the Constitution.
the facts and record before us under Haeberle,
however, we conclude that the district court did not err in
denying Benson's counsel's request to interview the
jurors. The district court's judgment is AFFIRMED.
E. GRAVES, JR., Circuit Judge, concurring in part and
concurring in the judgment
the decision to affirm the district court's order denying
Plaintiff Vanity Benson's motion for a new trial. I write
separately because, while I agree with the conclusion that
Benson should not prevail on the motion seeking access to the
jurors, I do not reach that conclusion through adherence to
Haeberle v. Texas International Airlines, 739 F.2d
1019 (5th Cir. 1984), a decision which, in my view, does not
constrain us in these circumstances.
months after the trial in this case, Benson filed a motion
seeking the district court's leave to allow her counsel
to interview the jurors "for the purpose of improving
future trials." Counsel attested that they were not
seeking to discover information to impeach the jury's
verdict, but rather to educate themselves and improve their
trial advocacy. The motion was filed pursuant to Eastern
District of Texas Local Rule 47(b), which provides,
"After a verdict is rendered, an attorney must obtain
leave of the judge before whom the action was tried to
converse with members of the jury." The district court
denied the motion in a one-sentence order.
Haeberle, like here, the district court denied an
attorney leave to interview jurors for purposes of educating
counsel and improving advocacy techniques. 739 F.2d at
1021-22. The rule upon which the district court relied dealt