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Charting the Jury

Do you have trouble remembering names at a cocktail party? Imagine trying to remember names and facts about potential jurors under the pressure of voir dire examination! There is a handy tool to help with this — a jury box chart.

Attorneys should always take notes during the court’s or other counsel’s questioning of prospective jurors to help remember the jurors’ answers. Even sketchy notes can be helpful reminders to eliminate the repetition of previously asked questions.

A great way to organize these notes is with a jury box chart. A jury box chart will help you keep track of the prospective jurors’ names and challenges exercised. Most courts give counsel a printed form on a single sheet of paper, showing empty boxes corresponding to the court’s seating plan. As each prospective juror is called, you can enter the name of the prospective juror in the appropriate box. If a prospective juror is excused, the name can be stricken and the new prospective juror’s name entered. The form usually contains another space to record challenges for cause and peremptory challenges.

Of course, if the court doesn’t provide such a chart, you can easily prepare one yourself. But one problem with this type of chart is that it quickly becomes messy as jurors are excused and information must either be erased or crossed out. To avoid this problem, some attorneys use a looseleaf notebook with one or more pages premarked for each jury seat.

Another alternative is to prepare a personalized jury box chart. You can write numbers 1 through 12 in two lines on a large piece of heavy paper (e.g., an 8-1/2 by 13″ manila folder) or cardboard. Large post-its may be attached under each number to correspond to the jury box that the potential juror is sitting in. You can write on these post-its your impressions about the juror, answers to key questions, and other information about the juror. If a juror is dismissed, the post-it can simply be removed and replaced with a new one.

And, as with more and more aspects of legal practice, “there’s an app for that”—there are at least 3 apps available for selecting and monitoring a jury on an iPad.

Regardless of the method you choose, don’t try to write down everything the prospective jurors say, take time to observe them too; you may learn more about each juror from watching his or her expressions than from the words that he or she says.

For everything you need to know about jury selection, including a sample jury box chart, check out CEB’s California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial, chap 8.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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