Civil Trial Jury Selection

When civil disputes reach the date of trial,after pre-trial proceedings have finished, pools of potential jurors, otherwise known as the venire, are generally waiting at the venue, from which defendants and plaintiffs will agree upon to use in their trial. Excluded from jury pools are those individuals who are deemed unfit for jury duty according to local, state, and federal statues, however, exemptions due to personal reasons are typically invalid in modern jury pools. Another factor for plaintiffs and defendants to consider when facing a civil trial is their ability to have their case heard by a judge exclusively, rather than a jury. Dependant on an attorney's legal strategy, some individuals and entities chose to pursue this legal right; however, most cases rewarding damages of some form do involve a jury.

Jury Size

A number of factors will influence the predetermined size of the jury during a civil trial. In some instances, state or federal law will require a certain number of jurors to decide a case, which usually for civil trials requires only six jurors. Additionally, both parties may opt to stipulate that a trial commence with a larger number of jurors, typically up to the amount of twelve jurors deciding a case. Likewise, a number of alternate jurors are selected in event an original juror is no longer able to perform their tasks as a jury member.

Importance of Jury Selection Process to Plaintiffs and Defendants

During the process of jury selection in a civil trial, plaintiff and defendant attorneys question the pool of possible jurors in a process known as voir dire. During voir dire, will question a number of aspects of potential jurors, with the intention of keeping or eliminating these jurors based on strategically appointed factors, which could help influence the verdict in a given case. With both sides, plaintiff and defendant, competing to eliminate detrimental jurors, the process of checks and balances will ideally produce a fair, unbiased jury. Factors attorneys seek to discern in potential jurors include:

  • Knowledge of the exact case being tried
  • Any prior bias creating experiences, prejudices, or involvement
  • Relationship of jurors to any party or witness in the civil suit
  • Cursory history, current employment, and other factors surrounding individual potential jurors

In the process of voir dire, attorneys from either side have options for removing detrimental jurors in the form of peremptory challenges and removal for cause. Removal for cause involves an attorney requesting a presiding judge remove a potential juror from the pool due to prejudice regarding the case. Additionally, attorneys, depending on the preset conditions of a civil trial, are limited to a certain number of peremptory challenges that can remove jurors without cause, except based on race, gender, or sexual orientation. Following this process, attorneys from both sides in a civil trial will concur on a jury, which will then render a verdict in the civil case following the trial period.

The importance of the jury, and the marginal level of control over their selection attorneys possess, stems from the fact that these individuals will soon be responsible for deciding the outcome, or verdict, of a civil trial based on the preponderance of the evidence. Jurors are responsible for ascertaining the veracity of all facts, information, testimony, and depositions provided in a civil trial through their verdicts. For this reason and others, the assistance and counsel of an attorney throughout every phase of any civil case involving a civil trial or civil litigation is essential.