Mar 3

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Jury Selection in a Post-Pandemic World: A Discussion of Preliminary Findings in “State of the States Survey 2.0”

NCSC (with major funding from law firms across the country) undertook a massive research project in 2006-2007 to chart how courts in every state conduct jury trials. Thousands of lawyers and court personnel from every state court system (and many federal courts) participated. The widely used State of the States Survey (SOS) became the fruit of those labors. Since 2007 the SOS has been a major reference tool for bench, bar, the legal academy, and empirical researchers. Since then, new understandings of juror behavior and the effects of a pandemic on court operations have occurred. NCSC wants to update the SOS to answer questions such as: How have current technology and societal trends impacted jury selection? What trends can courts and courtroom actors expect to see in jury trial operations in coming years?

To answer those questions and more, the Center for Jury Studies started distributing a new survey to courts, judges, and lawyers about current practices in each state. Learn more about what states are reporting thus far in two separate webinars on Tuesday, March 7, and Thursday, March 9, from 3 to 4 pm ET. The March 7 session will explore how the pandemic and race relations have changed jury selection in state courts. NCSC experts Judge Greg Mize (ret.) and Paula Hannaford-Agor will discuss preliminary findings from the ongoing State of the States Survey of Jury Improvement Efforts that compare jury selection practices before and after 2020. On March 9, Judge Mize, Paula Hannaford-Agor, and NACM President Jeffrey Tsunekawa will discuss the challenges and opportunities in local court jury operations based on the preliminary survey findings. We encourage readers and their professional colleagues to promptly register for the March 7 and March 9 sessions.

You are also invited to fill out one of the short questionnaires in the State of the States Survey of Jury Improvement Efforts, which closes at the end of March. Lawyers and judges click here to participate in the Judges and Lawyers Survey showing what happened in your most recent jury trial. Court personnel click here to participate in the Local Court Survey by reporting details about jury operations in your court.

Lawyer Bickering in Proud Boys Case Repeatedly Sends Jurors into Recess Mode

U.S. News describes the perpetual tensions plaguing the ongoing trial of former Proud Boys national chairman Enrique Tarrio and four codefendants charged with seditious conspiracy during the raid of the U.S. Capitol. The trial has comprised twelve days of jury selection and sixteen days of testimony. It is expected to keep going well into March. The way U.S. News reports it, U.S. District Judge Thomas Kelly is spending inordinate amounts of time addressing lawyer mischief, including some directed at the judge. For example, the writer tells us:

Jurors are often kept waiting in the wings while defense lawyers challenge the admissibility of evidence. In one such exchange, [defense counsel] Pattis urged Kelly to reconsider a ruling allowing prosecutors to introduce posts from the social media platform Parler. “We’re offering you a lifeline here because we think you erred,” Pattis told the judge. “Well, I’m offering you the lifeline of obeying my order,” Kelly responded. Kelly has frequently scolded defense lawyers for interrupting and talking over him, warning that he could find them in contempt. At one point, lawyer Nicholas Smith interrupted the judge while the judge was chastising him for an earlier interruption.

SCOTUS Vacates Capital Conviction Due to Faulty Jury Instruction

In Cruz v. Arizona,the U.S. Supreme Court last week decided in favor of an Arizona death-row inmate seeking resentencing because the jury in his murder trial was not instructed that sentencing him to life in prison would not allow him the possibility of parole.

Advocates Hope Automatic Voter Registration Diversifies Minnesota Jury Pools

That is the focus of a story in the Minnesota Star Tribune describing proposed legislation to automatically register all eligible voters to boost turnout at the ballot box. The article highlights empirical data showing how Minnesota juries are not representative of the general population. This leads some in the legal community to believe expanding Minnesota's voter rolls could also bring greater diversity to jury pools that have increasingly lacked people of color.

Georgia Legislators Seeks to Promote Availability of 12-person Civil Juries

Earlier this week, several representatives introduced Georgia House Bill HB 543 to give parties in civil cases the right to request a twelve-person jury.