In the United States, voir dire is viewed as essential to selecting an impartial jury. Judges, lawyers, and the public fervently believe that a fair trial depends on distinguishing between prospective jurors who are impartial and those who are not. However, in England, Australia, and Canada, there are impartial jury trials without voir dire. This article challenges the assumption that prospective jurors enter the courtroom as either impartial or partial and that voir dire will reveal the impartial ones. Though voir dire fails as an “impartiality detector,” this article explores how voir dire contributes to the trial process in two critical, but unacknowledged, ways. First, voir dire helps to transform “reluctant citizens,” who might have biases into “responsible jurors,” who are able to perform their role impartially. Second, voir dire lays the foundation for the judge-jury relationship, which is aided by other practices during and even after the trial.
A juror hearing the death penalty case of James Holmes came to court wearing a Mettalica t-shirt that depicted a person in an electric chair. When questioned by the judge about the t-shirt the alternate juror said he wore it because he did not think that he would actually be in the courtroom that day. The juror also said that he was not trying to send a message with the t-shirt but instead wore it because he liked Mettalica.
The Civil Jury Project, which was recently established at NYU law school, will hold its inaugural conference on September 11, 2015. The agenda for the conference can be found below. If you are interested in attending the conference you can RSVP here.
Friday, September 11 Lipton Hall, 108 West Third Street, New York, NY 10012
8:00 am Continental Breakfast
8:45-9:00 am Welcome
9:00-10:00 am Panel I: Originalism and the 7th Amendment Moderated by Samuel Issacharoff, Bonnie and Richard Reiss Professor of Constitutional Law; Faculty Co-Director, Civil Jury Project, NYU School of Law
Preserved Where, Preserved How, Preserved Why? Renée Lerner, Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School
Betraying a Distinctive Constitutional Idea of Popular Self-Government—Are the Lawyers, Judges, and Law Professors Still at It? Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law, Yale Law School
10:00-11:00 am Panel II: Empirical Studies Moderated by Catherine Sharkey, Crystal Eastman Professor of Law; Faculty Co-Director, Civil Jury Project, NYU School of Law
The Jury Under Fire: Myth, Controversy, and Reform Brian Bornstein, Professor of Psychology, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Edie Greene, Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado
Real Juries and Judicial Innovation: Arizona and the 7th Circuit Shari Seidman Diamond, Howard J. Trienens Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University School of Law
11:00-12:00 pm Panel III: Who’s To Blame? Moderated by Stephen Susman, Partner, Susman Godfrey; Executive Director, Civil Jury Project, NYU School of Law
A View from the Bench The Honorable William Young, Judge, US District Court for the District of Massachusetts
A View from the Bar Arthur Miller, University Professor, NYU School of Law
A View from the Boardroom Robert Gasaway, Partner, Kirkland & Ellis
12:00-12:30 pm Panel IV: What Innovations Judges, Court Systems, and Citizens Can Adopt to Save the Civil Jury Trial Panel Discussion:
The Honorable Mark Bennett, Judge, US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa
Paula Hannaford-Agor, Director, Center for Jury Studies, National Center for State Courts
Andrew Ferguson, Professor of Law, University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law
12:30-2:00 pm Lunch Keynote
Is it Worth the Fight? Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, United States Senator for Rhode Island
In 1993, Justice Doherty of the Ontario Court of Appeal crafted what was perhaps the most significant decision on racism in the Canadian criminal justice system of that decade. The twentieth anniversary of the groundbreaking decision in Parks offers an opportune moment to review the case law on challenges for cause to determine to what extent we have advanced the discussion on racism in criminal justice. Are we now more likely to recognize and respond to the harm of racial prejudice in the criminal trials of racialized accused? Have understandings of racism become more sophisticated and nuanced in the context of challenges for cause? In particular, how has the Parks question evolved to reflect the complex and elusive forms of contemporary prejudice in Canada, including subconscious racism? In this article, I argue that the progress we have made in examining the racial prejudices of prospective jurors has been negligible. While some individual judges have engaged in thoughtful and insightful analyses, the vast majority do not grapple with the insidiousness of racism in any meaningful way and reject attempts to deepen the inquiry.
The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 creates several new offences relating to juror misconduct, which have generally been considered pragmatic responses to the immediate problem of jurors using the internet to find additional "evidence." Taking as its starting point the possibility of jury studies being written from an "interdisciplinary" perspective situated between mainstream legal scholarship and legal history, this article argues that after the practical abolition of juror punishment in 1670 the judge-jury relationship has usually been focused on juror guidance, not on juror punishment. This has had important consequences for the institution’s civic function, meaning any move in the direction of juror punishment has to be considered not simply as a pragmatic response to an immediate, isolated problem, but also as an important part of the jury’s continuing history as a political institution.
According to the article below, plaintiffs attorneys in New Mexico seek to file personal injury suits in the northern section of the state e.g., Santa Fe and Las Vegas. Apparently, northern jurors are more pro-plaintiff. New Mexico courts allow this form of venue shopping because plaintiff's can file their lawsuit where the incident occurred, where the injured party lived, or where the business is registered. Also, if it is a wrongful death case, the attorney can file the lawsuit in the city where the personal representative resides. The attorney can choose almost anyone to serve as the decedent's personal representative.
Despite the importance of damage awards, juries are often at sea about the amounts that should be awarded, with widely differing awards for cases that seem comparable. We tested a new model of damage award decision making by systematically varying the size, context, and meaningfulness of numerical comparisons or anchors. As a result, we were able to elicit large differences in award amounts that replicated for 2 different cases. Although even arbitrary dollar amounts (unrelated to the cases) influenced the size of award judgments, the most consistent effects of numerical anchors were achieved when the amounts were meaningful in the sense that they conveyed the gist of numbers as small or large. Consistent with the model, the ordinal gist of the severity of plaintiff’s damages and defendant’s liability predicted damage awards, controlling for other factors such as motivation for the award-judgment task and perceived economic damages. Contrary to traditional dual-process approaches, numeracy and cognitive style (e.g., need for cognition and cognitive reflection) were not significant predictors of these numerical judgments, but they were associated with lower levels of variability once the gist of the judgments was taken into account. Implications for theory and policy are discussed.
In 1949, the leadership of the American Communist Party was put on trial for allegedly conspiring to teach the overthrow of the American government. The case, known as the Dennis trial, is a major part of American political and Cold War history. One of the rarely-discussed aspects of the case, however, is that the defendants argued that the jury was stacked against them: it would be composed almost exclusively of wealthy white men. The defendants' claim of jury discrimination was denied, but it can be seen as a vital step towards reforming New York's "Blue Ribbon Panel" system of jury selection, eventual Congressional legislation to end bias in jury selection, and the slow recognition by the Supreme Court that jury discrimination was more pervasive than previously thought. This Article is the first scholarly effort to explain the nature of the jury challenge in Dennis and situate the defendants' failure as part of a larger narrative of discrimination and injustice. Section II of this Article provides background on the case and establishes its importance as one of the most significant political trials of the twentieth century. Section III traces the evolution of Supreme Court jurisprudence on jury discrimination prior to the Dennis case. Section IV explains the peculiar "Blue Ribbon Panel" system of jury selection used in New York at the time for cases seen by the court system as especially serious or important. Section V dives into the heart of the Dennis defendants' claim that a skewed selection process would result in a jury that was almost wholly white, male, and upper-class. Last, Section VI discusses the aftermath of the Dennis trial and its importance both historically and legally.