Juror's Employment by Party Is Grounds for a Challenge for Cause
Kendrick v. Birmingham Southern Railroad, 254 Ala. 313, 48 So. 2d 320 (1950), a juror's employment by one of the parties is grounds for a challenge for cause. In that case, this Court held:
"An employee is incompetent to serve as a juror in a cause involving the interest of the employer and is, therefore, subject to challenge for cause." 254 Ala. at 322, 48 So. 2d at 327.
This Court has more recently discussed this issue in CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Dansby, 659 So. 2d 35, 39-40 (Ala. 1995):
"In addition to the statutory challenges for cause specified by Ala. Code 1975, 12-16-150, this Court also recognizes the common law challenges for cause. Wallace v. Alabama Power Co., 497 So. 2d 450 (Ala. 1986).
A common law challenge for cause must entail '"some matter which imports absolute bias or favor, and leaves nothing for the discretion of the court."' Wallace, supra, quoting Brown v. Woolverton, 219 Ala. 112, 115, 121 So. 404, 406 (1928). at common law, an employee of a party was subject to challenge for cause. Kendrick v. Birmingham S. R.R., 254 Ala. 313, 48 So. 2d 320 (1950); Citizens' Light, Heat & Power Co. v. Lee, 182 Ala. 561, 62 So. 199 (1913).
"However, we hold that the better view is that if the employer makes the challenge, it must make a showing of prejudice or bias on the part of the its employee, when it challenges for cause the employee's qualifications for serving as a juror in its case.
If the employer can justify its motion by proving that the employee will be prejudiced in some manner as a trier of fact, then the trial court should strike that prospective juror for cause.
Without such proof, the trial court should not strike the employee for cause. the party opposing the employer of the prospective juror, however, should be allowed a challenge for cause against the prospective juror, under the rule stated in Kendrick, supra, without a showing of bias or prejudice.
"Our two-pronged approach to this issue is based upon a recognition of the unique relationship between an employer and its employee.
Undoubtedly, this relationship implies a partiality on the part of that employee in favor of the employer.
We must presume that the employer and the employee have a friendly working relationship.
If such a relationship does not exist, then the employer, to have a challenge for cause, must show the court what the true relationship is.
Conversely, the party opposing the employer should not be required to show prejudice in order to challenge the employee; when that party challenges the employee, a prejudice in favor of the employer must be presumed to exist, and the trial court is consequently left without discretion in ruling on the challenge for cause."