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Federal Voir Dire and Jury Selection

NCJ Number
Trial Volume: 25 Issue: 3 Dated: (March 1989) Pages: 85-87
D Hittner
Date Published
3 pages
While Federal rules of civil and criminal procedure stipulate that either counsel or the judge may conduct the voir dire, in practice, particularly in criminal cases, it is the judge who conducts it.
In Federal courts, the standard procedure is for the judge initially to question each prospective juror, often asking each to give a synopsis of his or her background. After initial examination, the judge then would pose questions requested by counsel for both sides in their pretrial orders. The author, a Federal judge since 1986, permits counsel to conduct the entire voir dire examination and provides them with answers to an extensive juror questionnaire. All questioning of jurors that might involve a controversial, embarrassing, or personal area is conducted at the bench. Challenges for cause are made at the bench immediately after the examination and reseating of a questionable juror. The average time required for each side to voir dire the panel is about half an hour, and counsel have rarely exceeded their allotted time. In addition, counsel are given the opportunity of selecting the entire panel, including alternates with their initial strikes. All jurors are seated as fully qualified and none are considered alternates. At the conclusion of the trial, 'alternates' are selected from slips of paper containing all the jurors' names placed in a jar. Full participation by counsel in voir dire allows lawyers to question and interact with prospective jurors and provides a preview of each side's perception of the case. 6 notes.


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