Common pleas judges are responsible under law for making certain that the selection of jurors is performed in an impartial manner.
In any trial in which a jury is required, the Jury Clerk notifies a specific number of panelists, usually between 35 and 50, to appear in the courtroom for the trial. The trial judge or the attorneys will identify themselves and the parties to the lawsuit and explain the type of case to be tried.
Potential jurors will be questioned as to experience, general feelings and fixed opinions, if any, about the case. You will not be asked about the law because you are not expected to know the law. The trial judge may conduct part of this questioning and the attorneys may participate. This process is called voir dire. It refers to the procedure of selecting from the panel those individuals to decide the factual issues of the particular case in an honest and unbiased manner.
The voir dire process is not conducted out of curiosity; questions posed provide a vehicle for lawyers and the trial judge to test the qualifications of each juror. It is very important that all jurors frankly answer the questions to the best of their ability. Any potential juror may be determined to be unable to make an unbiased and fair decision about the case because he or she is related to the persons, attorneys or parties in the case; or has already made up his or her mind about how the case should be decided; or has been represented by one of the attorneys.
When an attorney seeks to excuse a juror, an attorney requests a challenge for cause. This request will be granted by the trial court only for valid reasons. Each attorney may also excuse a limited number of jurors without giving any reason. This is called peremptory challenge and is made on the basis of an attorney's choice. In a civil case, each party has four peremptory challenges. In most serious criminal proceedings, the prosecution and defense each are allowed seven peremptory challenges. Potential jurors excused with a peremptory challenge should not feel slighted or in any way be offended. There are many different professional reasons for a lawyer to challenge a juror. The attorney is merely using a right given to the party by law.
The 12 jurors selected, and any alternates, will take an oath or affirmation promising to perform their duties as jurors by carefully and fairly deciding the factual dispute, and to follow any instructions on the law which may be given by the judge.
Remember, your task as a juror is to determine the correct facts of each dispute between the parties. Any errors of law which the trial judge makes can be corrected by higher courts, but your decision on the facts usually will not be changed. Therefore, your service as a juror is of extreme importance to the parties. As long as you perform this privileged duty to the best of your ability and make an honest, careful and deliberate decision, the American system of justice will be served, and available for everyone, when it is needed.
The Jury Clerk's Office will be able to get jurors answers or information not provided on this website. Call 610-829-6730.