Voir Dire Clinic
This blog post marks the beginning of a series, the frequency of which will be decided by you. I was asked, by a very gracious and experienced litigator/reader, if I would weigh in on a voir dire dilemma she recently faced in Federal Court.
There was no attorney voir dire, so she only had the opportunity to submit questions for the judge to ask. Questions had to be put plainly and directly, and she needed them to be voir dire questions of a sort the judge would consider appropriate. The results of my analysis and top 3 suggestions are below.
She suggested that this would be an interesting blog series, and I agreed. Maybe you do, too. So here is what we’ll do. If a situation we know of strikes us as being worthy of this treatment, we will offer our own fact pattern as the basis. But what would be far more interesting is if your ideas and case concerns take center stage. If reading this brings to mind your own case facts you would like to see discussed, let us know. Feel free to modify and obscure the facts to mask the case, and we will not publish the name or venue of the person who submits it. Try to limit the case description and your view of the primary concerns to about 150 words. Submit it as a comment to the current blog post, and we’ll take it from there.
We have been writing for years about the fact that we put little stock in persuasion and our belief that the best a fine trial lawyer can do is to build a bridge between the values and preconceptions of the jury and the facts of the case. A perfect voir dire weeds out the venire members who are disinclined to allow that bridge to be built. But where are the land mines? Let’s look at the case presented for analysis.
Case: Knicknack Supplies decides to contract for custom work to be done offshore. They hire Acme Logistics Co. to arrange for manufacture in China, for which Acme is to receive a fee. The fees fall grossly into arrears, time passes, and a lawsuit is born.
Quandary: What questions might we submit to the judge to identify jurors who will hold negative views of the Acme Logistics, whose whole business is arranging advantageous offshore manufacture for American companies? Acme’s counsel is confident that the contract is clearly in Acme’s favor, if only it is not muddied by these negative views.
Analysis: The underlying assumption is that the jury will attribute more of the responsibility for the move offshore to Acme than to Knicknack (which is not necessarily true). But if this assumption is true, we want to find people whose values are protectionist toward American companies, who feel the strain of the shift toward Asian manufacture, and who are more interested in punishing over the changing job climate than tracking the facts of the case.
Who goes out of their way to buy products made in the US whenever possible?
Who feels that it is disloyal to our own country to shift jobs overseas that could be done here, just for the sake of small savings?
Who has no interest in ever visiting Asia?
The first question addresses lifestyle. Are you willing to work to support the US economy through your shopping choices? Most people who say this don’t live it, but it is their willingness to say it that is of the greatest interest. It signifies that they are hardcore.
The second question gets at whether they are looking for scapegoats.
The third question, which might not meet with cheerful endorsement by the judge, is actually very meaningful. It seeks out those whose minds are closed to any potential merit in understanding others and in a global culture.
So, send us some comments. Of course there will be many more questions submitted to the court. What would you add? Why would you add it?
And on what case would you like input? Shoot us a comment about this one, and pose a case and quandary for us. We’ll offer our take on it, and see what our readers suggest for consideration. This could turn out to be fun!