Rule 48 – Number of Jurors; Verdict; Polling

(a) Number of Jurors. A jury must begin with at least 6 and no more than 12 members, and each juror must participate in the verdict unless excused under Rule 47(c).

(b) Verdict. Unless the parties stipulate otherwise, the verdict must be unanimous and must be returned by a jury of at least 6 members.

(c) Polling. After a verdict is returned but before the jury is discharged, the court must on a party’s request, or may on its own, poll the jurors individually. If the poll reveals a lack of unanimity or lack of assent by the number of jurors that the parties stipulated to, the court may direct the jury to deliberate further or may order a new trial.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 48 addresses the number of jurors in a civil trial, the verdict, and the conditions under which jurors may be discharged. This rule is designed to ensure the integrity of the jury process in federal courts. Here’s a concise summary and explanation:


  1. Number of Jurors:
  • A federal civil jury must consist of at least 6 but no more than 12 members, allowing flexibility within this range based on the complexity of the case or other factors.
  1. Verdict:
  • The verdict must be unanimous unless the parties agree otherwise. This agreement must be made before the jury retires to deliberate and does not require the court’s consent. This provision offers parties some control over the decision-making process within their specific case.
  1. Juror Discharge:
  • Before the jury retires to deliberate, the court may retain alternate jurors in case of necessity. However, once the jury has begun deliberations, alternates cannot participate. The rule also allows for the court to permit a verdict from a jury of fewer than the original number if circumstances require, provided the parties agree.


Rule 48 provides a framework for the composition and operation of juries in federal civil trials, emphasizing the traditional requirement for unanimity in verdicts to uphold the principle of consensus in the justice system. By specifying the number of jurors, the rule seeks to balance the need for diverse perspectives in the jury with the practicalities of managing and coordinating larger groups.

The option for parties to agree on a non-unanimous verdict introduces flexibility into the process, acknowledging that in some cases, unanimity may not be necessary for justice to be served. This can be particularly relevant in civil cases where the stakes might differ from criminal proceedings.

The provisions regarding juror discharge and the potential for a reduced number of jurors to render a verdict accommodate unforeseen circumstances that may arise during deliberation, such as illness or emergency, ensuring that a trial can conclude without undue delay.

Overall, Rule 48 aims to maintain the integrity and efficiency of the jury trial process in federal civil litigation, providing clear guidelines that protect the rights of the parties while adapting to the practical realities of jury management.


(As amended Apr. 30, 1991, eff. Dec. 1, 1991; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007; Mar. 26, 2009, eff. Dec. 1, 2009.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

For provisions in state codes, compare Utah Rev.Stat.Ann. (1933) §48–O–5 (In civil cases parties may agree in open court on lesser number of jurors); 2 Wash.Rev.Stat.Ann. (Remington, 1932) §323 (Parties may consent to any number of jurors not less than three).

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1991 Amendment

The former rule was rendered obsolete by the adoption in many districts of local rules establishing six as the standard size for a civil jury.

It appears that the minimum size of a jury consistent with the Seventh Amendment is six. Cf. Ballew v. Georgia, 435 U.S. 223 (1978) (holding that a conviction based on a jury of less than six is a denial of due process of law). If the parties agree to trial before a smaller jury, a verdict can be taken, but the parties should not other than in exceptional circumstances be encouraged to waive the right to a jury of six, not only because of the constitutional stature of the right, but also because smaller juries are more erratic and less effective in serving to distribute responsibility for the exercise of judicial power.

Because the institution of the alternate juror has been abolished by the proposed revision of Rule 47, it will ordinarily be prudent and necessary, in order to provide for sickness or disability among jurors, to seat more than six jurors. The use of jurors in excess of six increases the representativeness of the jury and harms no interest of a party. Ray v. Parkside Surgery Center, 13 F.R. Serv. 585 (6th cir. 1989).

If the court takes the precaution of seating a jury larger than six, an illness occurring during the deliberation period will not result in a mistrial, as it did formerly, because all seated jurors will participate in the verdict and a sufficient number will remain to render a unanimous verdict of six or more.

In exceptional circumstances, as where a jury suffers depletions during trial and deliberation that are greater than can reasonably be expected, the parties may agree to be bound by a verdict rendered by fewer than six jurors. The court should not, however, rely upon the availability of such an agreement, for the use of juries smaller than six is problematic for reasons fully explained in Ballew v. Georgia, supra.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 48 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

Committee Notes on Rules—2009 Amendment

Jury polling is added as new subdivision (c), which is drawn from Criminal Rule 31(d) with minor revisions to reflect Civil Rules Style and the parties’ opportunity to stipulate to a nonunanimous verdict.

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