You’ve filed your complaint and the defendant has answered. Depositions are done and the court has entertained both dispositive and evidentiary motions. Now you’re ready for opening arguments, right? Not just yet—there are still a couple things that need to be done before your personal injury trial can start.
Opening statements are made to the jury, so a jury must be seated before the trial can begin. Though there are mostly minor variations in the process from one jurisdiction to the next, many of the steps in the jury selection process (also known as “voir dire,” from the French for “to see to speak”) are essentially the same. In most court systems, potential jurors are pulled from the rolls of registered voters or licensed drivers. Typically, when you are instructed to make yourself available for jury duty, it’s for a specific period of time—a month, for instance.
When you are called for potential jury duty, you’ll be asked to come to the courthouse on specific dates, but typically won’t be taken into the courtroom until the jury selection process begins. In most instances, prospective jurors are called into the courtroom in small groups. Each prospective juror will be asked to take the stand and may be asked questions by attorneys for either side, and by the judge. The questioning is designed to determine whether a juror can render an impartial verdict based on the evidence in the case.
The judge always has discretion to decline to seat a prospective juror. Attorneys for both sides may also challenge the fitness of a potential juror. There are two types of challenges—challenges for cause and peremptory challenges. A peremptory challenge may be made for any reason, but each side has a limited number of peremptory challenges. A challenge for cause must state a reason why the juror would be unfit, and there is no limit to challenges for cause.
In the American civil justice system, the judge makes determinations of law and the jury makes determinations of fact. However, the jury must return a verdict and the verdict must apply the facts to the law. Because the jurors can’t be expected to know the law, they are given instructions of law, telling them how they must decide the case based on how they determine the facts. In most instances, the attorneys for both sides submit prospective jury instructions and the judge makes the final determination as to what instructions the jury receives.
Contact the Law Offices of J. Lewis & Associates
To discuss your legal needs with an experienced Riverside premises liability injury lawyer, contact our office online or call us toll-free at 1-800-228-0507. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Se Habla Espanol.