Malpractice Trial Jury Selection

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Understanding the Trial Process

[By Dr. Jay S. Grife; Esq, MA]insurance-book

The selection process for a jury begins with what is called the jury pool.  A number of citizens are selected as potential jurors, usually several times the number of jurors needed for a trial.  From this pool of potential jurors, the jury panel is selected.

Jury Size and Constituency

The size of the jury panel varies by state and locale.  Most juries consist of about six to twelve individuals on a panel.  In addition, one or more alternate jurors may also be selected.  Alternate jurors sit with the jury and hear evidence just as all the other jurors.  In some states, they also sit in on jury deliberations, though they are not allowed to participate.  If for some reason a member of the panel is unable to continue with the trial or other deliberations, the alternate juror fills in.  The number of alternate jurors varies, and determining the number is usually left to the discretion of the judge.  Generally; longer trials require more alternate jurors.

Pre-Trial Questionnaires

Before any potential juror appears at the courthouse for a trial, usually a questionnaire form is mailed for the individual to complete and return to the court.  Such forms request information such as name, age, occupation, educational background, participation as a party or witness in previous litigation, previous jury service, etc.  Attorneys for the parties are able to obtain and review these questionnaires in advance of the trial date.

More Questions

On the day of trial, when the potential jurors arrive at the courthouse, the judge typically asks some generic questions about their ability to serve.  The judge may ask whether any potential juror has a problem staying for the duration of the trial, or whether the potential jurors know any of the parties or their attorneys.  The purpose of these questions is for the judge to determine which, if any, of the potential jurors will be excused immediately from service.


Many juries tend to be comprised of citizens with little or no college education.  One of the possible reasons for this result is that many professionals, especially medical professionals, request to be excused from jury service, citing their professional commitments as justification.  Ironically, professionals are usually the first to complain when juries who lack any representatives with advanced education hear their own cases.  Once the judge is finished with the preliminary screening of the jury pool; attorney questioning of the jurors and voir dire begins.


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