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Jury Selection – What to Expect in Voir Dire

Two words that can usually lead to a groan from whoever you are talking to is “jury duty”.

What is voir dire, and what should you expect?

Lawyers and judges pick juries by a process called “voir dire”, then the potential jurors from the venire are questioned by either the judge or the lawyer to determine their suitability for jury service in the case. It consists on selecting jurors for a case hearing, and this is one of the most important parts of a trial for attorneys, since in this process expert witnesses are questioned to know who they are before being allowed to present their opinion testimony in court.

Every county differs in the way that they organize jury selection, but the general idea remains the same for attorneys.  Jurors are brought in and numbered.  The more complicated the case, the more jurors there will likely be.  This group of people is what is known as the “jury pool”.

Usually, the attorneys are provided some basic information about the jurors.  This information could be your occupation, age, marital status, whether you’ve been involved in a lawsuit in the past, etc.  This helps the attorneys to get a general overview of who you are, and in some cases helps them to figure out if they already know you!

Sometimes, before the attorneys even talk to the jurors, they make everyone leave the room and renumber the jury pool.  This leaves many jurors confused and exasperated because they feel like they are starting the entire process over.  This is what is called a “shuffle”.  Each side is entitled to one shuffle; attorneys will ask the judge to shuffle the jury for any number of reasons.  This is an important tool for attorneys, and they don’t just use it to take up time.  Attorneys use their shuffle if they feel it will best serve the needs of their client.

Once all the jurors are seated in the jury pool, the judge will usually give a brief introduction.  From there, judges handle the process differently based upon their court.  Generally, the judge will allow both sides a certain amount of time to ask the jury general questions.  This would be questions like “Does anyone here know the plaintiff?” or “Has anyone here been in a car accident before?”.  The attorneys will ask you to hold your number in the air so that they can write down who answered their questions.

Some judges will then allow the attorneys to ask the jury pool specific questions.  These are usually follow-ups from the general questions.  So, if you answered “yes” to being in a car accident before, the attorneys may want to know more about that.

What some people may not know is that you don’t really get “selected” for the jury.  The jurors who end up on the panel for trial are actually the jurors that the attorneys did not remove from the jury pool.  People can be removed for any number of reasons, such as if they know one of the parties involved in the lawsuit.

Serving as a juror can be a fun and rewarding experience for most people that can give you a greater insight into how our legal system works.  Every jury pool and trial is different.  This is why it is important to have an attorney represent you who is an experienced litigator.  This way, you have the greatest likelihood of being successful at trial.