Selecting the members of a jury plays a critical role in the litigation process and can ultimately influence the outcome of your case. During voir dire, attorneys have mere moments to observe the behavior of potential jurors and evaluate their fitness to serve. As remote trials become increasingly common, legal professionals must adapt traditional voir dire practices for the digital age.
In this article, we’re sharing everything you need to know about conducting voir dire for remote trials. Let’s get started!
Understand Your Court Expectations
Voir dire practices can vary significantly between different courts. While some judges may permit extensive questioning, others will prefer to limit the process to a few hours. Take the time to research the preferences of your assigned judge. Do they allow peremptory strikes immediately after questioning? What about back strikes? By understanding the expectations of your court, you can prepare your questions to make effective use of the time allotted.
Get Beyond the Basics
When you picture voir dire, you probably envision face-to-face conversations with individuals at the courthouse. Unfortunately, that perspective can lead you to overlook valuable information that should be available prior to questioning. Remember to review any supplemental materials (such as questionnaires) that your prospective jurors are required to complete. In fact, in some cases, you can even incorporate case-specific questions into the questionnaires. Everything that you learn from these documents should shape your line of questioning and can indicate which candidates will likely require peremptory strikes.
Embrace the Remote Environment
Remote trials are still uncharted territory, but they do offer valuable and unique benefits during the voir dire process. While you won’t have the opportunity to talk to prospective jurors face-to-face, you’ll be able to see a glimpse of their home and observe how they conduct themselves in a comfortable environment. Furthermore, the remote format actually allows you to observe non-verbal behaviors and facial expressions more clearly than if you were watching the jury box from across the courtroom.
Consider the Social Media
Performing social media research on potential jurors can reveal critical information about their attitudes, biases, and lived experiences. Social media is great for making initial decisions about strikes. While social posts aren’t usually directly relevant to your case, they can help you form valuable impressions during remote voir dire. For example, you might learn that someone is an entrepreneur who runs a small business. This information suggests they have leadership qualities that would make them particularly valuable on the jury.
Try Working Backwards
When the going gets tough, the tough work backward! At the core of voir dire is the power to dictate the kind of jurors that you’d like to be seated. If you can’t find sufficient information about someone to decide if they should be struck, focus your attention on removing those you know are not fit to serve.
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