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How are juries selected?

Juries play pivotal roles in many types of litigation, including wrongful death and product liability. Because of this, those who are considering such legal action likely wish to educate themselves on jury selection.

The American Bar Association explains that jury selection begins with a compilation of potential participants into a list called a jury pool or a venire. This list can be derived from various government databases, such as those for voter registration. 

In some states, court officials will eliminate people on a venire according to their eligibility under state law. The venire may also be culled based on job-type exemptions. Historically this was done because it was believed certain people had jobs that were pivotal to the function of society. Because of this, it was deemed disadvantageous to remove them from these positions in order to serve on a jury. Many states, however, have done away from these types of exemptions.

In its “Selecting the Jury,” section the ABA explains that once a jury pool is established, potential jurors are brought in to stand before the court and answer questions from the judge and attorneys. The process usually begins with a court clerk asking 12 people from the venire to sit in the jury box. The judge then explains the case type and the jurors are asked if they have reasons they cannot serve. Potential jurors are also questioned about their backgrounds and areas of knowledge.

Attorneys who believe a juror is not impartial to the case may ask for a dismissal “for cause.” It is up to the judge to decide whether to allow these dismissals. Lawyers may also employ peremptory challenges, which can be used to dismiss jurors without providing a reason. Only a certain number of peremptory challenges allowed, and they cannot be used discriminatorily. Once selection is complete, the jurors are sworn in by the court clerk.

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