You filed a complaint and it’s been answered. You’ve deposed all witnesses and completed all discovery. The court has ruled on all dispositive and evidentiary motions. You’re ready for trial, right? Not so fast—there are still a couple of important steps to complete.
Voir Dire, or Jury Selection
You can’t make opening statements until you have a jury. The process is a little different from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but there are some basic guidelines that apply.
- Jury selection customarily begins with the notification of a pool of potential jurors, typically drawn from a list of registered voters
- Persons eligible for jury duty will typically receive notice to appear at the courthouse on a specific date.
- If a lawsuit appears headed to jury deliberation, potential jurors are brought into the courtroom, in small numbers, to face questioning by lawyers for all parties (and occasionally by the judge). The primary objective of the questioning is determine whether jurors can make an unbiased decision based on the facts of the case.
- Attorneys for both sides have two different ways to exclude a potential juror:
- Peremptory challenges—An attorney may exercise a peremptory challenge for any reason, but usually has a limited number of such challenges.
- Challenges for cause—A lawyer may ask the judge to dismiss a juror for cause, based on evidence that the juror cannot render an impartial decision. It’s ultimately up to the judge to decide whether a challenge for cause will be granted.
In the American legal system, the judge makes all decisions of law and the jury makes all decisions of fact. Nonetheless, the jury must issue a verdict based on the facts. Because jurors cannot be expected to know the laws, they are provided with instructions, telling them the legal conclusions they must make based on their findings of fact.
The court will generally ask counsel for all parties to prepare proposed jury instructions, and determine the final instructions to be given to the jury. Some courts will address jury instructions before trial begins, but others won’t address jury instructions until it seems certain the jury will have to engage in deliberations.
Contact Our Office
At the Cintron Firm, LLC, we bring more than 14 years of experience men and women in New Jersey who are involved in or contemplating filing for divorce. To set up an appointment, contact our office at 201-791-1333 or (201) 535-0323 or send us an e-mail.