- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 24, 2014

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Trial judges can’t meet alone with juries after a verdict is reached unless there is evidence of misconduct, the state’s high court ruled this week after reviewing the case of a southern New Jersey doctor accused of sexual harassment.

The Supreme Court’s decision stems from a case in which a Pennsauken doctor was ordered to pay a medical assistant who accused him of sexual harassment.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Holden’s conversation with the jury led to an appeal by Dr. Abbas Husain after a juror told the judge she was surprised that Husain had not put his hand on the Bible when he was sworn in. Holden had argued that the conversation was mean to be “educational.”

The high court ruled Tuesday that meetings with jurors can create the possibility that an innocent remark or question could be used to probe a jury’s decision-making process. The court said in a unanimous decision that post-verdict discussions should only happen if part of a hearing to look into misconduct.

Medical assistant Tomikia Davis was awarded $12,500 and court costs after testifying that Husain harassed her by making comments about women’s breasts and once placing his hand on her buttocks.

Husain appealed based on the comment from the juror; that appeal is still being weighed by an appellate court.

An appeals court already has ruled against Husain once, arguing that the Bible remark “does not express clear and unambiguous evidence of bigotry and noting that the trial judge viewed the jury’s verdict as consistent with the evidence” introduced at trial.

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