Judge's Corner

Article Index

Judicial Challenges The Honorable Janet Stauffer, 7th Judicial Circuit (August/September 2017)

Use of Fictitious Names for Parties in Civil Litigation in Oregon The Honorable James Hargreaves (Senior Judge, retired), Lane County Circuit Court (June/July 2017)

The Judge's Pledge The Honorable Susan Tripp, Marion County Circuit Court (May/June 2017)

Organizing for the Courtroom The Honorable Daniel R. Murphy, Linn County Circuit Court (March/April 2017)

A Two Year Journey with Odyssey in Juvenile Court The Honorable Lindsay Partridge, Marion County Circuit Court (January/February 2017)

Lane County Streamlined Jury Trial Project The Honorable Curtis Conover, Lane County Circuit Court (November/December 2016)

20 Ways to Further Justice The Honorable Ilisa Rooke-Ley, Lane County Circuit Court (October/November 2016)

Managing Multi-Party/Complex Litigation without Driving Your Judge Crazy (and maybe even making it easier for everyone) The Honorable Henry Kantor, Multnomah County Circuit Court (September 2016)

Managing Multi-Party/Complex Litigation without Driving the Judge's Staff Crazy The Honorable Eve L. Miller, Clackamas County Circuit Court (August 2016)

Do's and Don'ts in the Courtroom The Honorable Lisa Greif, Jackson County Circuit Court (June/July 2016)

Preparation for a Status, Case Management, or Pretrial conference - or how to get more out of a non-evidentiary proceeding in criminal and family court cases The Honorable Kirsten E. Thompson, Washington County Circuit Court (April/May 2016)

Postponements The Honorable Richard Barron, Presiding Judge, Coos/Curry County Circuit Court (March 2016)

Consider Trying More Cases The Honorable Suzanne Chanti, Lane County Circuit Court Judge (February 2016)

Professionalism - It Counts Both In and Out of the Courtroom The Honorable Brian Dretke, Union County Circuit Court Judge (January 2016)

Changes to Sex Changes The Honorable Beth A. Allen, Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge (December 2015)

Top 25 Tips from a Senior Judge The Honorable Michael C. Sullivan, Senior Judge (retired), Deschutes County (November 2015)

How to Succeed at Power Point In the Courtroom The Honorable Michael McShane, US District Court (October 2015)

Effective Use of Evidence At Jury Trial The Honorable Matthew Donohue, Benton County Circuit Court (September 2015)

Making a Record for Appeal, The Honorable Charles M. Zennaché, Lane County Circuit Court (August 2015)

Access to Civil Justice in Oregon's State Courts, The Honorable David Brewer, Associate Justice, Oregon Supreme Court (July 2016)

What Jurors Want: A Look Into the Minds of Jurors, The Honorable John V. Acosta, United States Magistrate Judge (June 2015)

Handling the "Half-se" Hearing, The Honorable Mustafa Kasubhai, Lane County Circuit Court (May 2015)

Effective Voir Dire, Judge Thomas Hart, Marion County Circuit Court (April 2015)

The New Judge on the Block, Judge Lung S. Hung, Malheur County Circuit Court (March 2015)

The Gift of Finality: One PJ's Perspective, Judge Karsten H. Rasmussen, Lane County Circuit Court (February 2015)

ORCP 68 Attorney Fees - when, why and how to seek them, Judge Deanne L. Darling, Clackamas Juvenile Court (January 2015)

Difficult questions must be answered before they are asked, Judge Edward J. Jones, Multnomah County Circuit Court (December 2014)

Judicially Hosted Settlement Conferences, Judge Jamese L. Rhoades and Sr. Judge Don Dickey, Marion County Circuit Court (November 2014)

Working together to make discovery more efficient, The Honorable Youlee Yim You, Multnomah County Circuit Court (October 2014)

Court Trials - A Jury of One, The Honorable Katherine E. Tennyson, Multnomah County Circuit Court (September 2014)

Making the Most of Short Evidentiary Hearings, The Honorable Daniel R. Murphy, Linn County Circuit Court (August 2014)

Vouching, The Honorable Jay McAlpin, Lane County Circuit Court (July 2014)

Appropriate Jury Instructions Can Help Litigators Win Trials, The Honorable Paula Brownhill, Clatsop County Circuit Court (June 2014)

Evidentiary Hearings and Motion Practice in the era of Oregon e-court, The Honorable Benjamin Bloom, Jackson County Circuit Court (May 2014)

Motions in Limine - Tips for "Newer" Litigators, The Honorable Jodie Mooney, Lane County Circuit Court (April 2014)

Judge Thomas Hart, Circuit Judge
(With the assistance of Kate Hall, Judicial law Clerk)
Marion County Circuit Court
(April 2015)

Effective Voir Dire

"If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch..."

This excerpt from Rudyard Kipling's 1895 poem "If" provides a good illustration of the breadth of perspectives attorneys navigate when conducting voir dire. It is important to navigate well: lawyers who respect the variety of life experience that comes with each panel win more cases.

A seasoned trial attorney has only a small percentage of the life experience of those sitting in the box, and common sense is not checked at the door. I averaged individual juror age and total years for my last twenty 12-person jury trials: The average juror was 47.45 years old, and the average number of years sitting in each box was 571.65. The jury panel brings all of that experience to the trial. Voir dire is a chance to take advantage of all that life experience.

Voir dire is not a personality contest, job interview, or the time to try your case. Trial lawyers are overly ready to do battle on the first morning of trial; this is not conducive to effective jury selection. The most effective voir dire tactic is to engage in honest conversation with the panel.

Trial preparation includes voir dire. Questions should address actual or potential strengths and weaknesses in your case. It is your burden to make sure you know what aspects of your case might not sit right with an average juror. For example, in a low impact car accident that resulted in significant injury to your client, prepare to address your claims relating to these injuries from a seemingly minor collision. This is an invaluable opportunity to soften the hard points in your case. Addressing the "warts" in your case gives you credibility and increases your persuasive power.

To facilitate an effective, grounded conversation, an attorney should come across as interested, but not condescending; instructive, but not patronizing; and most of all, completely inoffensive. It is a difficult balance to strike, but good listening skills go a long way.

Creating a conversation in voir dire helps your case in several ways. In a conversation, jurors are more comfortable and answer questions honestly with less pressure to be "socially acceptable." Skillfully phrased questions directed to the right juror can test the sensibilities of other jurors and educate the panel on the merits of your position. A conversational style can help to lessen any perceived power disparity between attorney and juror. This allows a juror to educate you on his or her position rather than just respond to questions.

Better yet, conversation can also help you explore the "why" behind people's positions. People tend to personally identify with their positions, but can be more susceptible to a gentle testing of their biases if they don't feel as though they are being grilled. When a juror speaks honestly about the reasoning behind their position, you can better identify how he or she will analyze your case.

Promoting a feeling of friendly conversation is effective in allowing jurors to open up so that you can get to know them. Pay attention to their responses, and don't mistakenly offend. Whether the jurors actively like you is not that important. However, it is very important that they don't dislike you. If you can master the art of conversation with jurors during voir dire, you will be a more successful trial lawyer.

 

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