JURY TRIAL — SELECTING THE JURY (VOIR DIRE)
The first order of business on the first day of trial is to select a jury.
This process can often be accomplished in a single morning. The bailiff will bring a group of about 40 potential jurors into the courtroom. This group of potential jurors is known as the venire, and unique consecutive numbers are assigned to each member of the group. The judge will ask questions of the group to find out if any members of the group should be excused from jury service for a variety possible reasons, including a) jury service would pose an undue hardship upon the potential juror; b) the potential juror has a conflict; or, c) the potential juror has a disability that would prevent them from serving. After questioning the panel, the judge will usually dismiss some of the potential jurors, and then the lawyers are allowed to conduct their own examination of the venire.
” Effective voir dire is a mixture of art and science, and many of the greatest ever trial lawyers believe it is the most important part of the trial. ”
Judges usually require the lawyers to submit their questions to the judge in advance, but judges generally permit the attorneys to ask follow up questions as necessary. The process of questioning the venire is known as voir dire. Effective voir dire is a mixture of art and science, and many of the greatest ever trial lawyers believe it is the most important part of the trial. Many excellent trial lawyers have written extensively on this subject. For example, Lisa Blue’s treatise, Blue’s Guide to Jury Selection is a very helpful resource. I will not attempt to give the subject a thorough treatment here. For now, it will suffice to say that my main goal in conducting voir dire is to get potential jurors who would be bad for my case to raise their hand in response to my questions and say something that would disqualify them from service on the jury. If I cannot get them to say something that would disqualify them, then I at least want to discover who the unfriendly jurors are so that I can eliminate them from the pool using my peremptory strikes.
After the lawyers have conducted their voir dire examinations, the judge usually excuses the venire for a break (sometimes over lunch). Next, the judge will ask the lawyers if they have any challenges for cause. If a juror has said something to indicate that he or she cannot be an impartial juror, then I will move that the juror be stricken. Opposing counsel has the same opportunity. The judge will rule upon the motions to strike potential jurors for cause. Next, from the remaining pool of potential jurors, each side is given an opportunity to make a limited number of peremptory strikes. After the peremptory strikes are made, the remaining members of the venire will constitute the jury for the case.
The philosophies, strategies, and tactics I’ve outlined above are the principles that guide our actions at Cluff Injury Lawyers. I’ve outlined them pedagogically to help anyone who wants to better understand these principles or improve their skills in utilizing them.
Author: Brigham Cluff