The Sixth and Seventh Amendments of the Constitution give those who are accused the right to an impartial jury. Anyone who meets the legal requirements to be a juror can be summoned to jury duty. However, some individuals may be exempt from jury duty for a number of reasons. You may be wondering, can lawyers serve on juries?
Lawyers can serve on juries. Jury exemptions may vary by city, county, or state. Some states allow lawyers, or attorneys, to be exempt from jury duty. Other states have a more limited list of exemptions or excuses and do not allow lawyers to request exemption. Even if a lawyer isn’t exempt from jury duty, they can still be removed from the randomized pool of jurors by the judge with cause. The attorneys of the participating parties may also eliminate jurors with or without cause.
Types of Cases Juries Serve On
There are two types of cases that involve a jury: a criminal and civil trial. There are also two different types of juries. A grand jury is a larger jury that is called upon to sit in on a case to determine if there’s enough evidence for the accused to be charged with a crime. A petit jury is a bit smaller, consisting of 6 to 12 jurors, that give either a guilty or not guilty verdict in a criminal trial.
Commonly referred to as a trial jury, petit juries may also serve on civil cases that do not include a guilty or not guilty verdict. Instead, the ruling is decided to be in favor of one of the parties involved in the case. For example, defamation is a civil lawsuit that may result in a jury ruling in favor of the plaintiff or defendant involved in the case. No criminal charges are brought against either party in a civil case. Jury members may decide upon a monetary award for damages that the losing party may have caused.
How Are Jurors Selected?
The jury selection process is pretty much the same for all cities, counties, or states. Individuals are randomly selected from a list. The list usually comes from individuals who are registered voters or hold a driver’s license. This information would be pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles database.
Once a pool of jurors is randomly selected, they may be subject to a questionnaire that will determine whether they are qualified to serve on a jury. Before the juror pool is narrowed down, people who are summoned for jury duty may have the opportunity to submit a request for exemption. If the exemption is approved, that person will be cut from the jury duty selection process.
Jurors are randomly selected out of a pool of qualified candidates. These jurors are invited to a process called voir dire. This gives the judge and two participating parties a chance to question the jurors before the trial to determine if anyone needs to be released with or without cause.
Some reasons a juror may be released from jury duty by a judge with cause include:
- Individuals who may not decide the case fairly
- If an individual knows a person involved in the case
- Anyone who may have information about the case
- Any other issues that may affect the individuals decision-making on the case
Attorneys involved in the case may also excuse a defined number of jurors from the narrowed pool using a peremptory challenge. This occurs when either the party of the plaintiff or defendant excuses a juror before the trial without having to give reason. Attorneys can do this if they don’t believe it would be in their clients best interest to keep the person on the jury. A common example of when a peremptory challenge may be used is when a lawyer is in the jury pool.
Do Lawyers Serve on Juries?
Lawyers can serve on juries, but it is fairly common that they don’t. There are two main reasons why a lawyer may not serve on a jury. The first being that some areas allow lawyers to request exemption from jury duty. For example, the Code of Virginia states that licensed practicing attorneys can be exempt from jury service.
Other individuals that may also request exemption from jury duty, depending on the area, include:
- Secondary or postsecondary students
- Police officers or sheriffs
- Members of the legislative branch
- Active military members deployed outside the area
- Individuals who have served on jury duty recently
The second reason a lawyer may not serve on a jury is by peremptory challenge. This means that an attorney from either party in the case may request that an individual be excused from jury duty without cause. Jurors can be excused through a peremptory challenge for any purpose, except for discriminatory reasons such as race, ethnicity, or gender.
Many participating attorneys choose to use their peremptory challenge to excuse lawyers from serving on the jury of their case. This might be a more common practice with defense attorneys participating in a criminal case. Since lawyers are supposed to be experts in law, it may not be helpful to the defense or prosecution party for a lawyer to be on the jury.
Why Attorneys May Not Want Lawyers on a Jury
The voir dire process is an important process to attorneys involved in the case. Participating parties are given the opportunity to question jurors to figure out which jurors may benefit either party’s side of the case. Being a lawyer is not a reason a judge would excuse a juror with cause. This means that it is up to the attorneys in the case to decide whether they want a lawyer on the jury, and most of the time they don’t.
Lawyers might be able to catch things during the trial that other jurors may not have noticed. They might also be able to sway other jurors’ decisions on the case or help jurors analyze the testimony and evidence in a different way.
If defense attorneys find that having a lawyer on the jury might negatively affect how their client is viewed amongst other jurors, they can excuse the lawyer. Attorneys may also use a peremptory challenge on jurors for other reasons as well.
Attorneys of the plaintiff or prosecutor tend to dismiss jurors if they feel as if the individual might sympathize with the defense. To win a case, attorneys might want to try and confuse the jury for their benefit. If a lawyer is serving on the jury, this intricately designed plan may not work. This is especially true for a trial lawyer, who knows all the tricks in the book on how attorneys handle a trial in the courtroom.
Juries are given instructions on how to render their decision once both sides have presented all evidence, testimonies, and arguments. Some courts may not allow the judge to give the jury an explanation for any confusion they may have about the jury instructions. This confusion might affect the decision in a way that benefits the defendant or plaintiff. If jurors don’t find the jury instructions clear, a lawyer juror might be able to help.
How Lawyers Might Be Helpful Jurors
Attorneys may not want a lawyer serving on a jury, but they might be beneficial as a juror. Lawyers can be a solid jury member because they may have more knowledge about how to view the evidence, testimony, and facts of a case.
It can be difficult as humans to not sympathize with someone in a courtroom, depending on the matter of the case. Jurors are not supposed to render decisions based upon any feelings and are only responsible for looking at the facts. If a lawyer is on a jury, they might be able to help clarify the facts or evidence of a case to help jurors come to an impartial decision.
Trial lawyers may have studied psychology to identify when a witness might be lying. If a lawyer has knowledge on psychology, this could be very useful in pointing out witnesses who seemed untruthful or testimony that didn’t fully connect to the evidence presented.
Overview: Can Lawyers Serve on Juries?
Although lawyers are legally allowed to serve on a jury, they may be able to exempt themselves depending on location. Lawyers may also be excused by one of the participating parties in a case using a peremptory challenge. Even if a lawyer wanted to serve on a jury to see a case from a different perspective, it is very unlikely they will be selected as a juror.
Lawyers serving on a jury can be very beneficial in deciding a case. They may help other jurors in terms of analyzing the evidence and finding the facts in a case. Despite this, most attorneys want a jury that might sympathize with their party or even get confused by some of the legal operations of a trial and how to render a decision. The process is made fair since jury selection is randomized and both participating parties have a chance to excuse jurors they don’t want serving on the case.
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