This blog discusses Erga v. Chalmers, an appeal where plaintiffs sought a reversal of a no cause verdict and remand for a new trial. The remand for a new trial occurred because the trial court judge failed to ask Question Six of the Administrative Office of the Courts Directive #4-07. This Directive outlines open-ended questions that must be asked of potential jurors. It is not important that the questions be worded exactly as they are in the Directive but they must be the same in essence. The point of verbally asking certain questions of jurors is to allow the attorneys representing each side to see the facial expressions, body language and hear the answers of the jurors to determine if any of them are biased.
Juror Selection Questions and Bias
The questions include what potential jurors think about large corporations, whether they think the U.S. is too litigious (there are too many lawsuits), how they feel about the career field from which experts for the case may be drawn, whether they think professions like doctors and lawyers should be allowed to be sued, and how do they feel about the jury system in general. Question Six is more broad than most questions and asks, “do you believe that you will make a good juror for this case? Please explain.” The plaintiff requested that this question be asked numerous times but the judge would not allow it. The plaintiff felt the question was important to ask because it would force jurors to speak freely and allow the counsel to really gauge what potential jurors thought. The judge offered to ask the question in the negative, by essentially asking potential jurors whether they thought they would make “bad” jurors. However, the plaintiff argued that few people would be likely to identify themselves as “bad'” jurors and thus asking the question in the reverse changes the essence of it. Because following the Directive is not option for a trial judge, it is not necessary that the defendant show that not asking Question Six created bias. As a result of Question Six not being asked, the judgment that had been entered in favor of the defendant was vacated and the case was remanded for a new trial.