By Mary Frances Broughman
How Paralegals Assist with Jury Duty Selection Process
The jury duty selection occurs the first day of trial and is the first step toward ensuring a fair trial. It begins with a jury list, consisting of randomly selected people from your community. In most states or venues, the jury list is compiled from voter registration and driver’s license lists. Some venues have a jury commissioner, an officer of the Court responsible for choosing a panel of potential jurors.
The jury panel is typically screened by a court official to eliminate any ineligible or exempt individuals. The people remaining on the jury list are then summoned to appear at a specific date and time for jury duty.
Screening and Researching Potential Jurors in the Jury Duty Selection Process
Leading up to trial, your trial team will receive the jury panel from the court, listing the potential jurors. The list is typically accompanied by questionnaires the potential jurors have completed that provide basic background information such as:
Occupation or employment
Relation to law enforcement or government official
Your paralegal plays a critical role in helping your trial team learn as much as possible about the jury duty candidates, before they ever set foot in the court room. After receiving the jury list and questionnaire, your paralegal will immediately begin their research. This includes searching social media platforms, local court dockets and search engines. In many instances your paralegal will learn a lot about a potential juror including sex, race, political affiliation, socioeconomic status, and employment background, as well as information about their immediate family such as spouse or kids and their employers. They check for every additional information they can to get a feel for that person.
How Paralegals Contribute to the Voire Dire Process
On the first day of trial, the jury panel is called into the court room. The attorneys for both the Plaintiff(s) and Defendant(s) then begin the process of “voir dire,” which is a term derived from Latin and French. It essentially means “to see or speak the truth.” Voir Dire helps ensure everyone is afforded a fair trial.
While preparing for trial, your paralegal will work closely with your attorney and other members of the trial team to craft appropriate questions that will be presented to potential jurors under the supervision of the trial judge. This is done to help eliminate anyone with a strong bias or that would have a hard time being fair to either side.
For instance, if your case involves a drunk driver questions might be asked such as:
Have you or a loved one ever been injured by a drunk driver?
Are you strongly against driving under the influence even if it’s within the legal limit?
Do you think that you could be fair in making decisions in a case where one of the drivers was under the influence?