Video: How Are Jurors Chosen? The Importance of a Jury Trial
Hi, I’m Dave Hersh and I’m a trial lawyer.
I’m the co-chair of the Burg Simpson Eldredge Hersh & Jardine commercial litigation department. I try civil cases. Today, we’re going to talk about the importance of a jury trial. Because I try civil lawsuits, this video is going to focus on civil trials.
If you’re involved in a lawsuit—you’re a plaintiff or a defendant—if you’re involved in a lawsuit, a jury trial is your best hope. Our judicial system is built to protect rights, and a jury trial insurers that your rights are fully protected. The 7th Amendment to the United States Constitution preserves the right to jury trial. Why did our framers think that it was so important that we have a civil jury trial that they would put it in our Constitution?
I’ll tell you. It’s because jurors are our peers—our peers, the people like us in the community who can resolve disputes that we have with others.
They are people that come from the community, where you live and where I live. In my experience—and I have tried well over 100 civil jury trials to verdict—people who were asked to be jurors take this civic duty very seriously. They really want to do the right thing. They want to make the right decision. You know, in fact, the most common question that I get from jurors after a verdict is: did we do the right thing? Most jurors are really focused on making sure they make a correct decision.
Don’t get me wrong; I love judges. I have great respect for most of the judges that I know. But when you call jurors to come from their homes to leave their jobs to do something different than their everyday life and you entrust them with the responsibility to make a life-changing decision for the litigants that are before them, for strangers, people they don’t even know, that’s a very serious responsibility. And it’s a charge that they take very seriously. If you have a lawsuit, on either side, you want people deciding it who take their job seriously.
How Are Jurors Chosen?
So how are jurors chosen? Well, each jurisdiction is a little bit different, but basically the requirements are: they have to be able to understand the English language, they have to meet the residency requirements of the jurisdiction, they have to have the ability to understand the case that is before them, they have to make sure that they don’t know the people or the controversy, and they have to promise to listen and be fair and objective.
Now it’s interesting, you might say, that one of the requirements is that they can’t know the people involved. That’s really important because it makes sure that they’re going to be fair. So what happens?
Purpose of a Jury
Jurors are chosen through a process known as voir dire. They hear the evidence, they hear everything that’s said in the courtroom. They see all of the exhibits. They’re instructed on the law by the judge. The judge tells them everything they need to know about the law, and then they go and they deliberate. And in those deliberations, they have to reach a consensus. In some jurisdictions, it can be by majority vote. In many jurisdictions, it has to be unanimous. The jurors have to reach agreement in deciding your case.
Juries Are the Great Equalizers
A jury trial is the one place in America that makes the rich and the poor equal. It makes the powerful and the weak equal. It makes the educated and the uneducated equal. A jury trial is the one place that an average citizen has every opportunity to compete on a level playing field with the largest corporation. Juries are the great equalizers. Juries protect the rights of average citizens. And, in my experience, juries get it right.
Now, I’m not gonna tell you I’ve won all of my jury trials—any lawyer who tells you the he or she has won all of their jury trials either doesn’t try very many cases or has a selective memory—but I have respected each one of the juries and each one of jury verdicts that I have received. And I am fortunate to say that the vast majority of them have been my client’s favor. But the point is that juries work hard to get it right, and they are the guarantor, the protector, against unwarranted power. And they give the average citizen the protection they need. Juries work hard, they protect the rights of the parties, and in my experience, they follow the law. And that is basically the importance of a jury trial. If you have a legal matter that I can help you with, please feel free to contact me. You can call me at 303-792-5595. Or you can reach me on the internet at burgsimpson.com. I’m Dave Hersh, and I am a trial lawyer.