Like many of you in the past, I got called for jury duty in Fulton County today and even though I am an Injury Lawyer, and wrote this is large bold Allcaps on the form, I still got to hang around until 6 p.m. waiting to be cut by the lawyers trying the case. No one puts a trial lawyer on a jury and I wish they would have done it this morning. However, some jurors wanted to know what to expect in the selection process for a trial so I thought I would put a few thoughts down for you so that your day is more enjoyable.
Civil and criminal jury pools are different in the sense that criminal cases have 50 juror pools while civil is usually no more than 30-36. So if you are on a civil jury pool, the selection process will go faster. You won’t know till you arrive that morning.
There are also serious differences between the various judges. Our Judge today, who shall go unnamed, chose to give general questions to the entire jury pool and then to bring jurors in by panels of 12. Once the 12 were in the box, each juror would stand and state some basic information which was then followed up by more questioning by the lawyers.
Most of the cases that I file get tried in the State Courts and it has been my experience that the Judges give us more latitude. Normally, the lawyers get to conduct the entire voir dire of the jury to the pool as a whole. This is infinitely faster than the 6 hour debacle I went through today.
Don’t get me wrong; voir dire (the process of asking the jury questions) should not be hurried and the time spent on careful juror selection has a massive impact on the verdict we get for clients, but there are more efficient ways to go about this.
Many of my co-jurors wanted to know how to get out of service. You may get out of service if 1) you are over 70; 2) you are sole caretaker of young kids, 3) you have non-refundable airfare purchased in advance; 4) you are a surgeon. Can you cause yourself to be stricken from the jury? Yes, I suppose so but that would be completely un-American. Voting and jury service are two of the few civic activities you will ever participate in, so suck it up, bring a good book and meet some of your fellow citizens. It’s not that bad. You can bring a book, a laptop, your Blackberry, whatever. If that day or three days is the price for citizenship, go ahead and pay it. And Judge, if you are listening, stop taking the jury in 12 person panels for individual questioning. It slows everything down!