About ten years ago, I was becoming a little frustrated with the rapidity of the jury selection process in my court. In my court, we are often given only a few minutes to assemble our list of peremptory strikes. The process takes place usually with the prospective jurors seated in the gallery waiting, so the judges don’t want us to take too much time.
When it came time to select a jury at the close of voir dire, I found that I had notes on various prospective jurors all over my pad of paper, but it was often difficult to group them together — to gather all the notes specific to each juror so that I could make my decisions about strikes rapidly.
After batting around this problem in my head (my default batting cage for brainstorms), eventually, I came up with an idea that has worked well for me. Instead of taking my voir dire notes on a large pad, I take them instead on pads of Post-It® notes.
Here’s how it works: Each time a juror answers a voir dire question and provides distinguishing information (meaning information individual to that juror — not part of a collective response), I write the juror’s number down on the pad and a brief note about the answer they gave or my related observations. When that voir dire question has concluded, I go on to a different Post-It pad.
Once all the voir dire questions have concluded, I separate the individual notes by juror number into piles — one for each juror, and voila! All the notes are grouped juror by juror.
Based on the mathematics of the jury selection, I then pay particular attention only to the notes on those jurors who have a mathematical chance of being selected (see my earlier post “In Jury Selection, Remember Your Math”).
I became a good deal more efficient, and was able to spend less time looking for my notes on particular jurors and more time synthesizing my observations for the jury selection. No more hunting around trying to find all of my notes pertaining to each individual juror.
You could do this as well using small pads of note paper, instead of Post-Its. I like the Post-Its because of the stickiness. It’s hard to lose a note that’s sticky.
I’ve not seen any other attorney use this system of note taking, so I thought I was the only one who found this solution. While I was writing this article, I learned that a company in New York, Blumberg Excelsior® has a slightly more formalized tool for attorneys to use in jury selection, based on the same general idea of using individualized juror notes. Here’s a photo of it, called the Jury Case®, with an embedded link if you’d like to check it out:
I’ve not used it myself, but I’m all in favor of finding time saving tools for use at trial. In some of my upcoming posts, I’ll tell you about a few things that I use that make my life a lot easier at trial.
What tools have you found helpful at trial? Write and let me know, or leave a comment below.