How Juries are Picked in Civil and Commercial Litigation Cases
Picking a jury is one of the most important parts of any kind of business case. In cases where your business may be opposing an individual who feels that he or she was wronged, having a fair and impartial jury can be the difference between winning and losing.
There are two parts to jury selection. In one part, the attorneys will ask questions about the jurors, to see if there is any hidden or obvious bias. As you can imagine, many jurors are anxious to get out of jury duty. It is up to the attorneys, and to some extent the judge, to determine whether people have something in their backgrounds that makes them unfit to serve as a juror in the case.
For example, if a juror once sued an employer for employment discrimination, and you are an employer being sued for discrimination, you may not want that juror on your jury. If you are a shareholder suing a company and its shareholder in a shareholder derivative lawsuit, you may not want a corporate CEO on your jury.
After asking the jurors questions, both sides can strike jurors based on the jurors’ answers to the questions. These are called for cause challenges.
But an attorney doesn’t always need to have cause—or any reason at all—when striking a juror from the jury. Each side has a limited number of what are called peremptory challenges. These are challenges that the attorneys can make to jurors without having to give any explanation (the attorneys obviously do have a reason for striking these jurors, they just don’t have to disclose the reason).
The one exception to the “no reason needed” peremptory challenge, are challenges based on race. A party can’t decide that they want a white or black (or any other nationality or race) jury pool. If a party suspects the other party is striking jurors solely because of the jurors’ race, the striking of those jurors can be challenged.
It is even improper to strike a juror for being white—striking jurors on the basis of race is prohibited, regardless of whether the juror being stricken is considered a minority or not.
If challenged, the party striking the juror must give the court a non-racially based reason why the juror was stricken. The Court must provide the party the opportunity to explain why the juror was stricken.
The same restrictions on striking jurors based on race, also apply to striking jurors based on gender. A party could not use peremptory jurors to get an all male or all female jury.
Jury selection is so important, that in larger cases, jury selection experts may be called in to assist. These experts often have backgrounds in psychology or human behavior, and help predict whether a given juror may be favorable or unfavorable to a party’s case.
Call Pike & Lustig, LLP, at 561-291-8298. Our West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers try cases in court for businesses, employees, independent contractors, and anyone else who has a business related case.