Rules for Jury Selection Are Left to the Courts


The New York legislature passed a bill to have the courts promulgate uniform jury selection rules in civil cases.  Rule making will be left to the Administrative Board of the Courts which is composed of Chief Judge Kaye and the four presiding justices of the four Appellate Divisions. 

Chief Judge Judith Kaye on left swearing-in Governor David Patterson.

A bill had been before the Assembly (A8964B) which would have legislated rules.  After lobbying and negotiation by the Office of Court Administration (www.courts.state.ny.us) and the New York State Trial Lawyers Association (www.nysta.org), a consensus was reached that the Court’s Administrative Board should make the rules.

We think that this is a wise solution.  The Administrative Board is in a better position to promulgate rules.  The State Trial Lawyers, who are in the courts daily, supported this decision.

Incidently, under Chief Judge Kaye’s leadership, jury selection has been streamlined.  The new legislation might have lengthened jury selection to two days.  Now, in the typical case involving two parties, jury selection takes one day. 

In the old days some lawyers were able to stretch jury selection for many days.  This was especially so in a complex case involving multiple parties.  Although a long jury selection had its uses (such as allowing counsel more time to prepare and allowing the insurance company to get put “some real money” on the a file), the old, time-consuming process fueled the general public’s enmity toward jury service.  The Chief Judge’s shortening of jury selection to a one day average as well as other reforms, such as eliminating jury exemptions, has helped lessen the general public’s reluctance to enter the courthouse for jury service.

In sum, the courts rather than the legislature are in a better position to regulate jury selection.

As of the writing of this post the bill has been approved by both houses and will be presented to the governor for his signature.  

Mark E. Seitelman, 6/24/08, www.seitelman.com

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