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McNair v. NCAA Presiding Juror Anthony Bruno Speaks Following Motion for New Trial Hearing

As the parties await Judge Frederick Shaller’s ruling on Todd McNair’s motion for new trial, the spotlight in the case has turned to the trial’s presiding juror, Anthony Bruno.  In the documents filed, as well as in lengthy oral arguments by both parties at the hearing on the motion last Friday, a large part of the focus was on Bruno’s involvement, including whether or not he should have been excused from the jury.  Following Friday’s hearing, Bruno reached out to WeAreSC.com for comment.

Q: Let’s cut to the chase.  You reached out following the January 11, 2019 hearing on Todd McNair’s motion for new trial, a hearing which largely focused on whether or not you should have been excluded from the jury for implied bias due to your then employer Latham & Watkins’ representation of the NCAA in McNair’s prior appeals.  What made you reach out?

Given that the McNair trial is now focused on my involvement as a juror, I wanted to set the record straight in regards to what, to the best of my recollection, I disclosed during jury selection.  I appreciate you providing me with this opportunity.

I was the number two juror straight out of the juror pool.  We got a questionnaire right at the beginning that we were asked to fill out, and on Day 1 of jury selection, I disclosed my employment at Latham & Watkins.  In fact, during jury selection, I had extensive discussions with Bruce Broillet (McNair’s lead counsel), and to a lesser extent Kosta Stojilkovic (the NCAA’s lead counsel), about my background as an attorney for Latham.  The parties were familiar with my background before the trial commenced.

Jury selection lasted three days, and I recall that at the end of the day Friday (the last day of jury selection) Judge Shaller asked if any potential juror worked for a company that had any relationship with NCAA.  I again disclosed that I work for Latham & Watkins, which is one of the biggest law firms in the world, and noted that solely based on Latham’s sheer size, there was a potential that Latham may have worked for the NCAA.  However, I informed the judge that I had no personal knowledge as to if Latham had a relationship with the NCAA.  At that point Judge Shaller ordered me not to look into it any further, and I complied.  During the course of the trial, I did not research whether Latham ever represented the NCAA.  The judge also ordered the jury not to disclose that we were jurors on this trial to anyone until the trial concluded.  I complied with that instruction, and did not disclose my involvement to anyone, including Latham or my own family.  I did not discuss my involvement with anyone at Latham until after the trial concluded.

Q: When did you discover Latham & Watkins’ representation of the NCAA in McNair’s prior appeals?  

Shortly after the trial ended, I discussed my experience as a juror informally with some of my friends at Latham.  During those discussions, one of my colleagues noted that Latham may have  previously represented both the NCAA and USC.  I found that interesting, but wasn’t entirely surprised.  I was surprised when I discovered that Latham represented the NCAA in this specific case, and I did not discover this fact until Bruce Broillet and Scott Carr called me many months after the trial and informed me of it.  Given this history, I was curious as to why McNair’s counsel did not move to strike me during jury selection, which they didn’t do.  McNair’s counsel had peremptory challenges available (i.e., challenges that could be used to strike a juror for any reason) and chose not to use them on me.  It is clear now however that the attorneys for both sides did not remember Latham’s involvement in the case until after jury selection was completed and the jury was empaneled.           

Q: On this point, you mentioned that after the jury was empaneled, you again asked to speak to Judge Shaller about your background and employment.  Why did you request this meeting?

After jury selection concluded on Friday (Day 3), I started thinking about ethical rules for attorneys and just in an abundance of caution wanted to ensure that both sides were entirely comfortable with my involvement.  I obviously have no power to excuse myself from jury duty.  I recall that on Monday, I asked to speak with the Judge Shaller.  When I was called into chambers with the Judge and counsel, I essentially reiterated what I said during jury selection—although I had no personal knowledge of any representation by Latham of any of the parties in the case, Latham is a big firm and I would hate for there to be an issue later if something were discovered.  The attorneys then asked me some more questions regarding my personal knowledge which I answered truthfully, and then the Judge again instructed me not to research who Latham may have represented.  I was retained as a juror and this was the last I heard of the matter until after the verdict was reached.

Q: One of the points discussed by the attorneys Friday was the removal of one of the jurors after deliberations had begun due to language barrier issues, including your role as the face of the jury in interacting with Judge Shaller as to this same juror, and the possible impact of that juror’s removal who now appears to have been siding with McNair in the early jury verdict form questions.  

This juror had basic questions.  She had trouble identifying the four individuals in that photograph of McNair with Lloyd Lake, Faizon Love and Michael Michaels.  She wanted to be excused from Day 1.  She is also the one who asked for a translator and I communicated that to Judge Shaller.  The whole room wanted to get to a verdict.  The thought that I steered the jury to find for the NCAA?  Not true.  Early in deliberations and before I really expressed my opinion,  the initial straw vote was 7-5 for the NCAA.  McNair never had a majority of support on Question 3.  The emotional weight was with McNair.  But the jurors had a hard time believing he didn’t know.

Q: It’s been almost nine months since the McNair v. NCAA trial began.  Looking at things now, do you stand by the verdict of the jury you sat as presiding juror over, or would you change the way you voted?

Yes, I stand by the verdict.  There was never a path for McNair on defamation based on jurors in that room.  He never got close to the 9.  There were some very opinionated people in that room.  The biggest nail in the coffin for me was McNair’s failure to call Lloyd Lake.  Repeatedly during the trial, McNair’s attorneys complained that the NCAA did not provide McNair an opportunity to cross examine Lake during the NCAA’s proceedings, but when McNair had the chance to bring Lake in for questioning in court, he passed.

Q: What are you doing career-wise these days, and what made you decide to make this change from Latham & Watkins?

Not long after the trial, one of my clients had an opportunity for in house position, closer to where I live.  The General Counsel there is a former Latham partner.  I have a young family, and I wanted to spend more time with them.

Q: Friday it was announced that McNair signed on to be the running backs coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, his first college or NFL coaching job since 2010.  Any comments on this news?

Yes.  Congratulations.  I’m happy to see that.  I think it’s great that he was able to get back to what he wanted to do.  He obviously loves football, loves coaching.  The fact that he was able to get back to the NFL level, congratulations.  Regardless of how all of this turns out I think he will be OK.

 



Lizelle Brandt
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Lizelle Brandt

Lizelle Brandt is a graduate of USC and the USC Gould School of Law. In addition to being an attorney she has also contributed stories, video and legal analysis for WeAreSC.


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