Selecting Better Juries:
The Prospective Juror Questionnaire
1. Spotlight on Juror Questionnaires
Making solid, successful challenge decisions depends upon obtaining honest, accurate information about prospective jurors' attitudes, beliefs and experiences. Traditionally, attorneys have relied upon oral voir dire to elicit information from potential jurors. Each panelist, in turn, is typically asked the same questions. The attorney then quickly scribbles a few notes to summarize the answers. Most questions pertain to basic demographic information. Questions on sensitive issues are rarely, if ever, posed for fear of embarrassing a juror. For example, in cases where psychological injury is claimed, it would be of great value to both sides to understand each juror's past experience with psychiatrists and/or psychologists. Further, having some idea of whether those experiences were positive or negative would be invaluable. However, asking a prospective juror, in open court, if they have ever consulted a psychiatrist or a psychologist is difficult, and potentially disastrous, and thus, is most often avoided. In order to gain accurate information from jurors without lengthy voir dire, the courts are increasingly allowing the use of prospective juror questionnaires. In fact, in California, attorneys are permitted to do so under the Code of Civil Procedures (CCCP 222.2). These questionnaires not only elicit extraordinarily candid information about panelists' background and experiences, but they allow the voir dire to be more focused, thus expediting the entire jury selection process.