The Critical Cryptical Method Called “Voir Dire”
The importance of jury selection cannot be over-estimated. One of the great trial lawyers of the Twentieth Century opined “[n]ever forget, almost every case is won or lost when the jury is sworn.” Clarence Darrow, circa 1936. Juries may be selected utilizing both written questions (an example of which is included at the end of this blog), and the above-mentioned colloquy, or voir dire, between the Court, the lawyers, and the “venire” which is defined as the pool of potential jurors. Voir Dire is a Latin term meaning “to see or speak”.
Voir dire is a legal procedure conducted before trial in which the attorneys and the judge question prospective jurors to determine if any juror is biased and/or cannot deal with the issues fairly, or if there is cause not to allow a juror to serve. A simple example would be an insurance adjustor who cannot separate his work-related mind-set from the case he is being asked to decide.
In a jury trial the Judge decides questions of law. The jury, based upon the law as explained by the Judge, applies the facts to the case and reaches a decision based upon the application of the facts to the laws as instructed by the Judge.
Other definitions of voir dire emphasize that it is a tool for seeking the truth. Any experienced trial lawyer seeks the jurors more sympathetic to its side. Given the importance, an entire discipline has grown in popularity and usage among trial lawyers – and that is the utilization of “Jury Selection Experts.” Much of the selection process is still an exercise in hypothetical “gut” feelings but the more at stake in any given case the more likely an experienced trial lawyer may decide to go with more than just a “gut” feeling.
Why should you care? Here’s why! Although many experienced trial lawyers avoid this type of expert choose a lawyer who has the confidence in their own ability without the ego present in a “gut” feeling. Communication between jury selection expert, the trial team and client will far more often result in a selection of jurors most sympathetic to their position.
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*By Marc Epstein, Esq.
CIVIL JURY QUESTIONNAIRE
PLEASE STATE SO THAT THE COURT AND COUNSEL CAN HEAR YOU.
- What is your legal name?
- Where were you born?
- Where did you grow up?
- In what city do you now reside?
- What is the current profession, occupation, or trade?
- If you are not now employed, what was your last occupation and employer?
- What is your marital status?
(Married, Single, Divorced, Widow or Widower)
- What is your spouse’s employment, if any?
(If not now employed, any prior employment?)
- How many children do you have?
- How, if at all, are your children employed
- Have you served as a juror within the past year?
- Have you or any member of or immediate family been a party to ANY lawsuit, civil or criminal? If so, when and in what Court?
- Are you either a close friend or related to any attorney or party in the case?