How to Select a Jury

Jury selection moves fast – you need to be ready.

Civil trials have 6 jurors, who are not sequestered during deliberations.  There must be 6 jurors to start a civil trial and 5 to render a verdict.  Fewer than 5 jurors results in a mistrial.  Criminal trials have 12 jurors who are sequestered during deliberations.

This article focuses on selection a civil jury.

Procedure relating juror eligibility, preparing the jury rolls, jury panels, drawing the jury at trial and so on is outlined in the Juries Act.

Jury Panel List

Jury panel lists are made available at the Court office 10 days before jury selection.  They can be 20 pages long with 300 potential juror names.  The Court fee is $2 pursuant to section 20 of the Juries Act.

The jury panel list has five components:

  1. Panel number.  This jurors on the panel are listed alphabetically with a corresponding panel number 1, 2, 3 and so on.
  2. Roll number – while the list of jurors is in alphabetical order and the panel number is in numerical sequence, it isn’t always the case that the roll numbers are in numerical sequence.  If at a civil trial jurors are referred to by their roll number and roll numbers are out of sequence, it may not be easy to find them (more on this below);
  3. Name – in alphabetical order, as indicated above;
  4. Address; and
  5. Occupation – if the occupation shows as “retired” or “manager”, the Judge overseeing jury selection (who will not necessarily be the trial Judge) will usually ask for more information about what type of work they did before retirement or in what industry they are a manager.

Before Court

Once you have the jury panel list, first take note that it is a highly confidential document that you are entrusted with.

Privacy dictates that jurors may be referred to by panel number or roll number.  If jury selection is done by panel number (as suggested by the Juries Act), it’s best because it’s very easy to locate juror names and occupations on the panel list.  If jury selection is done by roll number, this is okay so long as the roll numbers are in numerical sequence.  Sometimes things can get tricky because a panel list could be 20 pages long and roll numbers are not always in numerical sequence.  To prepare for potential jury selection by roll number can be done by scanning the panel list using a device with optical character recognition, pasting the values into a spreadsheet and rearranging the list by roll number in numerical sequence.

To participate in jury selection, you need your list of jurors, a tally of peremptory challenges (4 boxes per side to tick off or inset the challenged juror number as they are used) and a page numbered 1 to 6 from left to right or 6 to 1 from left to right to suit which side of the Courtroom the Jury box is on.  1 to 6 for the left side of the Courtroom and 6 to 1 for the right side of the Courtroom.  Ontario Courtroom Procedure by Sanderson and Fuerst have some great sample forms for this purpose.  Most people will focus on panel number or roll number and occupation for the page, leaving age, gender and other noteworthy information to be jotted down after selection is complete.

At Court

If Jurors have a compelling reason, they can be excused.  Practically speaking, many will be excused and that means you can get fairly deep into the Jury pool.

Jury selection is by random draw.  The specifics can vary slightly depending on the Judge and Registrar involved.  To start, 6 Juror numbers are drawn at random.

Pursuant to section 33 of the Juries Act, the plaintiff(s) have 4 peremptory challenges and the defendant(s) have 4 peremptory challenges, meaning a challenge to a juror for no particular reason.  If there is a peremptory challenge, you say “challenge” and if not you say “content”.

If a potential Juror is challenged, they are excused and another number is drawn.  This happens until either all challenges are used up or the parties are content with the 6 Jurors.

How to use what you know about the Jury in opening statement, examinations and closing argument is fun to strategise over.

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