As a citizen, you have long enjoyed the privileges and protection of your government. Now you are called into service for that same government. You have been summoned and qualified as a trial juror for the courts of West Virginia.
Jury service is the fulfillment of a civic obligation and a valuable privilege. There is no more vital work a citizen can perform in the exercise of self-government than honest and conscientious jury service. Service as a juror is as important as that of the judge, and a trial juror should take great personal satisfaction in the fact that an important duty has been accomplished. Indeed, the effectiveness of our system of justice is measured by the integrity and dedication of the jurors who serve in our courts.
This handbook is designed to help you understand trial procedures and terms you may hear in the courtroom. In each case for which you are selected as a juror, the trial judge will give you instructions as to your schedule, courtroom procedures, and the law as it relates to the case before you.You should disregard anything in this handbook which is in conflict with the judge's instructions.
It is necessary that there be courts so that the disputes which arise between people can be settled justly and peaceably. It is necessary that persons charged with crime be fairly tried, that public safety and welfare be protected on the one hand, and that private rights and liberties be safeguarded on the other. It is the business of every citizen to see that this is done, and it is a duty which the people must do for themselves if life, liberty and property are to be kept secure.
Suppose Ms. Jones sues Mr. Smith. They may be strangers to you, and you may not care who wins. But as a citizen, it is very important to you and all the people that there be a way by which disputes between people can be settled without conflict and in a rational and just manner.
John Doe may be accused of a crime. He may also be a stranger to you, and you may never have heard of the offense with which he is charged. Still, it is important to you as a citizen that the laws be enforced to punish wrongdoers and discourage crime so that you may be safe and secure in your person, your property and your rights. It is equally important that no innocent person be falsely convicted and sent to prison, for if that could happen to someone else, it could also happen to you.
Role Of The Judge and Jury
The oaths taken by a judge and juror require each of them to accept and apply the law as it is. That is a sworn duty. No person is allowed to disregard the law because he or she thinks the law should be different than it is. Laws are made, repealed or changed by those who are elected to make laws, not judges and jurors.
During the trial the judge decides all questions and disputes about the law and the rules for presenting evidence. At the end of the trial, the judge instructs the jury on the law and the main questions it is to decide. The case is then turned over to the jury, and the power and responsibility move from the judge's bench to the jury room. The jury must decide what the facts are and what testimony to believe.
The first step in a civil or criminal jury trial is the selection from the jury panel of the number of jurors required to try the case. In circuit court, civil case juries are composed of six persons and criminal case juries are composed of twelve persons. In magistrate court, all juries are composed of six persons. In most cases, the judge will impanel one or more extra or alternate jurors in case a juror should become ill or have to be excused because of an emergency during the course of the trial.
After the judge briefly explains the general nature of the case to be tried and introduces the lawyers and parties, the panel of prospective jurors is questioned in a process called voir dire -- French for "to speak the truth" -- to determine if any juror has a personal interest in the case or a prejudice or bias that may wrongly influence his or her role as a juror. The attorneys may ask the court to excuse some jurors from the trial. These requests for excuses are called "challenges." There are an unlimited number of challenges for cause, where a specific legal reason is given, and a limited number of peremptory challenges, where no reason is given. The system of challenges is designed to allow lawyers to do their best to assure that their clients will have a fair trial.
For instance, anyone who is related to any of the parties, has unfinished business with one of the lawyers, or knows so much about the case that he or she already has an opinion, may be challenged for cause and excused. On the other hand, a lawyer may learn that a prospective juror has had some experience, such as a similar lawsuit, or a social or business connection with one party, which, although not a legal ground for challenge for cause, may still be a good reason for excusing the juror. This would be a peremptory challenge. A juror should not take offense if excused from serving on a particular jury. The lawyer is not suggesting the juror lacks ability, honesty, or judgment, but is only using a legal right. When all challenges are used, the remaining jurors are sworn to try the case upon the merits.
When the jury is selected and sworn, the lawyers on each side of the case may make brief statements to the jury outlining what they intend to prove on behalf of their clients. Jurors should remember that these statements of the lawyers are not evidence, but only explanations of what each side claims, and these claims must be proved by evidence. These conflicting claims constitute the issues of the case.
Presentation Of Evidence
The next step in the trial is the presentation of the evidence in the form of testimony and exhibits. Testimony consists of statements made by witnesses under oath. Exhibits are physical objects, such as photographs, weapons, or written documents. Usually, the attorney for the plaintiff in a civil case or the prosecutor, if it is a criminal case, proceeds first. The defense will offer its evidence after the plaintiff or prosecutor finishes. When the defense has rested its case, the court may allow the plaintiff or prosecutor to put on rebuttal evidence and call additional witnesses.
Rules of evidence have been developed over the years to insure that trials are fair and orderly, and the judge acts as a gatekeeper for the evidence that comes into court. Insofar as the jury is concerned, the evidence is only that which the judge permits the jury to consider. For instance, statements and arguments of the lawyers are not evidence, and neither is testimony that the jury has heard, but which the judge has ordered stricken from the record. A juror must treat all such testimony as though it had never been given. Similarly, matters that a lawyer offers to prove, but which the judge will not allow to be presented, are not to be considered as evidence. Jurors are not to consider personal knowledge or any other information about the witnesses, parties, lawyers or issues connected with the case than that which is presented in the trial.
Examination Of Witnesses
To prove a certain side of the case, lawyers may call witnesses to the stand for examination. Lawyers ask questions of the witnesses to bring out the specific facts they wish to show. The questions asked should have some bearing on the case, and the witnesses should know about the subject or matter being discussed. If these and other rules are not followed, the lawyers on the other side of the case may object. If the judge believes the question or answer does not comply with the rules of evidence, the objection will be sustained. On the other hand, if the judge does not believe the law requires the exclusion of the evidence, the objection will be overruled, and an answer will be required. The various rulings by the judge during witness examination do not mean that the judge is taking sides. The judge is merely deciding whether the law does or does not permit a particular question to be asked and answered. Even if the judge decides every objection in favor of one side, it does not mean that side is entitled to win the case.
When the direct examination of a witness is finished, the lawyer for the other side may cross examine, which means that he or she may ask questions of the same witness. When cross examination is finished, the first lawyer may ask questions on redirect examination to clear up points developed on cross examination. To keep out improper matters, witnesses are allowed only to answer the questions asked. If the witness makes a statement which is not a proper answer to a question, it may be stricken out, which means jurors must disregard it entirely.
Each juror should pay close attention to the witnesses who testify, both to hear what the witnesses say and to watch their manner and actions. In determining the credit to be given to witnesses, jurors may take into account their ability and opportunity to observe, their memory, their manner while testifying, any bias or prejudice they may have, and the reasonableness of their testimony in light of all the evidence in the case.
Conferences And Delays During Trial
There are occasions during a trial when the lawyers may confer with the judge out of the hearing of the jury, or the judge may excuse the jury from the courtroom while the attorneys argue a point of law. In either case, jurors should not feel slighted or attempt to guess what is being said. These conferences are often held to avoid confusing or misleading the jury on a technical legal matter or to simplify issues. Although such hearings may seem time-consuming, they usually speed up the trial process.
There may be other delays during the trial, for instance, something may have happened to delay someone, the judge may be looking up the law on some point which has suddenly arisen, or the parties may be trying to work out a settlement. Service as a juror may sometimes require patience.
Guessing At The Judge's Opinion
As the trial proceeds, jurors sometimes try to guess at what the judge thinks about the case or the way it should be decided. This is a mistake. Even though the judge's rulings may be mostly or entirely in favor of one party, that does not indicate how the judge thinks the case should be decided. If the judge has an opinion about the facts, and it is one which is legally proper for the jury to know, the judge will make it plain in the directions or instructions of law at the end of the trial.
Closing Arguments Or Summations
After all the evidence has been presented, the lawyers for each side will make closing arguments to the jury, giving the reasons why they believe their side should prevail. If the testimony of witnesses is conflicting, the lawyers will tell the jury why the witnesses on their side are more persuasive than those on the other side.
What the lawyers say in closing arguments or summations is not evidence and should not be considered as such. Jurors should, however, pay careful attention to the arguments because lawyers have experience and training in analyzing and interpreting evidence, and these arguments are permitted so that you may have the benefit of that experience and training. Nevertheless, it will be for the jury to determine, through judgment and common sense, which of the arguments is the most reasonable analysis of the facts.
After the closing arguments are made, the judge will give instructions to the jury on which questions it is to decide and what specific law applies to that particular case. The kind and amount of proof required will be pointed out. The juror should listen to these instructions very carefully. If, in considering the case in the jury room, there is any disagreement as to what the judge instructed, or its meaning, the jury may ask for further instructions. Such a request should be made in writing and given to the court bailiff who will pass the request on to the judge.
After the judge has delivered the instructions, the jury will go to the jury room to review the evidence according to the judge's instructions and reach a verdict. The verdict is the final decision of the jury; it resolves the case.
The first duty upon retiring to the jury room is to select someone to preside over deliberations and act as a spokesperson in the courtroom. It is the duty of this juror, usually called the "foreperson," to see that discussion is carried on in a sensible and orderly fashion, that the issues submitted for decision are fully and fairly addressed, and that every juror has a chance to say what he or she thinks upon every question. The foreperson conducts voting and also signs any written verdicts required and any written requests made of the judge. While the foreperson should express his or her opinions during the deliberations, these opinions are entitled to no more or less weight than those of the other jurors.
Differences of opinion often arise between jurors during deliberations. When this happens, each juror should say what he or she thinks and why. By reasoning the matter out, it is usually possible for jurors to agree. Jurors should not hesitate to change their minds if they decide their first opinion was not right, but they should not change their decisions unless their reason and judgment is truly changed. Jurors should vote according to their own honest judgment of the evidence. If a jury cannot agree within a reasonable time, it may result in a new trial, which may be a great expense to the parties and the state. Jurors are expected to be fair, reasonable and courteous to each other, and try to reach an agreement which is a "fair and true verdict."
When a verdict has been reached, the jury will return to the courtroom. The verdict will be read in open court by the clerk and accepted by the judge. Sometimes one of the parties will ask that the jury be polled. This means the clerk will ask each juror individually in open court if the verdict is his or her own verdict. After the verdict is delivered, the jury's service will be complete, and the jury will be discharged by the judge.
After The Trial
Often when a jury trial is completed, reporters and other members of the media or the attorneys and parties involved in the case wish to ask jurors about their deliberations and what factors influenced the final verdict. Jurors are under no obligation to answer any questions about a case or comment upon it in any way. A simple refusal or response of "no comment" should suffice.
On the other hand, if jurors wish to speak with the media or attorneys about the trial, they are free to do so. Remember, however, that it is not appropriate for any juror to reveal the votes of any other member of the jury.
Do's And Don'ts
There are certain rules that a juror should follow throughout the trial in order to be fair to all sides:
Inspecting the Scene: The case on trial may involve a certain place or thing, such as the scene of an accident, a particular business place, the operation of a traffic light or the like. If it is necessary and proper for the jury to make an inspection of the place or thing, the judge will order that the entire jury do so, with the judge and the lawyers present. It is improper for any juror to make an inspection unless ordered by the court. An unauthorized inspection by a juror might force a retrial of the case.
Discussing the Case: During or before the trial, jurors should not talk about the case with each other, with other persons, or allow other people to talk about it in their presence. If anyone insists upon talking about the case after repeated attempts to silence them, the juror should report the matter to the judge at the first opportunity.
News Accounts: To ensure that jurors keep an open mind until all the evidence, arguments and the instructions of the court have been heard, they should not watch television accounts, listen to radio broadcasts, or read newspaper articles which may occur during the trial. Such sources may give a biased or unbalanced version of the case.
Talking With Parties or Lawyers: Jurors should not talk with any of the parties, witnesses or lawyers during the trial. It may give the appearance that something unfair is happening.
Jury Research Organizations: There are a number of organizations which conduct research on the composition of juries and its potential impact on the verdicts and awards in different types of cases. Since the names of prospective jurors are a matter of public record, there is a small chance that jurors may be called prior to, or during, the term of jury service by one of these research groups. Jurors are under no obligation to provide personal or other information to these organizations and may simply refuse to participate if they wish. These and any other attempts by people other than court officials to contact and question jurors should be reported to the circuit clerk who will inform the judge.
Promptness: It is most important that jurors not be late in reporting for duty. One juror who is late wastes the time of all the other jurors, the judge, the lawyers, the witnesses, and the parties. A lawyer, witness or juror may be fined for contempt of court for being tardy without good cause. The circuit clerk's office should be notified of unavoidable delays.
Personal Problems or Emergencies: Jurors should notify the judge of any problem which may affect service or any personal emergencies which occur during trial. In these situations, a juror may send word to the judge through court personnel or may ask to see the judge in private.
Legal And Judicial Terms
Allegation -- an assertion, declaration or positive statement by a party to a case which states what the party expects to prove.
Answer -- the defendant's written response to allegations in the case.
Appeal -- the process by which a decision in a case is carried from a lower court to a higher one for review.
Bailiff -- a court official who maintains courtroom order and security and also assists the judge and jury as necessary.
Charge to the Jury -- a judge's instructions to the jury regarding the laws pertaining to a case.
Civil Case -- an action brought by a person, company or other entity -- the plaintiff -- to protect some right or to help recover money or property from another person or company -- the defendant.
Circuit -- a geographical court jurisdiction composed of one or more counties.
Closing Argument -- a summary of the evidence presented to the jury by the attorneys.
Complaint (civil) -- written statements by the plaintiff(s) setting forth the claims against the defendant(s).
Complaint (criminal) -- a formal statement charging an individual with a criminal offense. Criminal Case -- an action brought in the name of the State of West Virginia to try a person -- the defendant -- who is charged with a crime.
Cross-Examination -- the questioning of a witness by the opposing side.
Defendant -- the person against whom a civil lawsuit is brought, or, in a criminal case, the person who is charged with committing a crime.
Deliberations -- jury discussions and consideration of the facts presented during the trial prior to reaching a verdict.
Deposition -- witness testimony taken under oath and outside the courtroom.
Direct Examination -- the first questioning of a witness by the party on whose behalf the witness is called.
Due Process -- a constitutional provision guaranteeing an accused person a fair and impartial trial.
Evidence -- any legally presented proof which may be established by witnesses, records, documents, or physical objects.
Exhibit -- any paper, document, or other object received by the court and offered as evidence during a trial or hearing.
Felony -- a serious criminal offense punishable by imprisonment in the penitentiary.
Indictment -- a grand jury's written accusation charging that a person or business allegedly committed a crime.
Instruction -- a direction given by a judge to the jury regarding the law in a case.
Litigant -- a person or group engaged in a lawsuit.
Misdemeanor -- a less serious criminal offense than a felony which is punishable by a fine or imprisonment in jail.
Oath -- a written or oral pledge to speak the truth.
Objection -- a statement by an attorney opposing the admission of specific testimony or evidence during trial.
Opening Statement -- an outline of anticipated proof presented to the jury by the attorneys at the beginning of the trial.
Overrule -- the court's denial of a motion or objection raised to the court; when a court overrules an objection to evidence (for example, testimony), the jury may properly consider it.
Parties -- persons, corporations, or associations which have brought a lawsuit or are defendants in a trial.
Plaintiff -- in a civil case, the person or other entity who files a claim against another person or, in a criminal case, the State of West Virginia.
Probable Cause -- a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches and arrests.
Prosecution -- the act of pursuing a lawsuit or criminal trial; the prosecution in a criminal case is brought by the state through the prosecutor.
Prosecutor -- the public official who performs the function of trial lawyer for the state.
Redirect Examination -- the examination of witnesses which follows cross-examination and is exercised by that party who first examined the witness.
Restitution to Victim -- an amount of money the court requires the defendant to pay the victim of a crime to repay the victim for damages or losses suffered as the result of the offense.
Striking a Jury -- process of selecting a trial jury where attorneys "strike" or excuse jurors until the number of jurors required for a trial remains.
Sustain -- court's acceptance of any motion or objection; when a court sustains an objection to evidence (for example, testimony), the jury may not consider it.
Trial -- examination of issues regarding fact and law before a court.
Verdict -- the final formal trial decision made by a jury, read before the court, and accepted by the judge.
Voir Dire Examination -- the preliminary questioning of jurors by the attorneys and/or the judge to establish their qualifications to sit on a particular jury.
Witness -- a person subpoenaed to testify under oath who possesses factual knowledge about a case.
How was I chosen for jury duty? First, your name was selected at random from voter registration and driver's license and "identicard" records. Then, your answers to the juror questionnaire were evaluated to make sure you were eligible for jury service (see the FAQ: Who is eligible for jury duty?). You were chosen because you are eligible and able to serve. You are now part of the "jury pool"-a group of citizens from which trial juries are chosen. Who is eligible for jury duty? To be eligible for jury service, you must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the county in which you are to serve as a juror, and you must be able to communicate in English. If you have ever been convicted of a felony, you must have had your civil rights restored. Do I have to respond to the jury summons? RCW 2.36.170 states, "A person summoned for jury service who intentionally fails to appear as directed shall be guilty of a misdemeanor." Please respond to your summons. The justice system in Washington State cannot function without citizens willing to serve on jury duty. As one juror said, "if everyone tried to dodge jury duty, then what ...?" How do I reschedule jury duty? Look at your jury summons form. There will be a telephone number to call, or an address to which you can write, so that you may request that your service be rescheduled, if necessary, to a more convenient time. Who can be excused from serving? Those eligible may be excused from jury service if they have illnesses that would interfere with their ability to do a good job, would suffer unusual hardship if required to serve, or are unable to serve for other legitimate reasons. What if I have a disability? Judges and employees of Washington courts are committed to making jury service accessible to everyone. Though some courthouses are in older buildings and certain features may not meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility guidelines, the court will make every effort to ensure equal access to all jurors. Remember: If you have a hearing, vision, mobility or other disability, please contact a member of the court staff to request reasonable accommodations. What if I am caring for a dependent child or adult? We would appreciate it if you would reschedule your jury service to another date when you can make necessary care arrangements rather than asking to be excused. On your jury summons form, you will find a number to call or an address to which you can write to make arrangements to reschedule. What about my job? Washington law says employers, "shall provide an employee with sufficient leave of absence from employment when that employee is summoned" for jury duty. It also says employers, "shall not deprive an employee of employment or threaten, coerce, or harass an employee or deny an employee promotional opportunities" for serving as a juror. It does not say your employer has to pay you while you serve. How much do jurors get paid? RCW 2.36.150 specifies that jurors may receive up to twenty-five dollars but in no case less than ten dollars for each day's attendance. Most Washington State counties pay $10 per day. Jurors are also eligible for mileage reimbursement. How long does jury duty last? How many days and hours you work as a juror depends on the jury selection system in your county. The judge may vary daily working hours to accommodate witnesses who have special travel or schedule problems. You may be struck by how much waiting you have to do. For example, you may have to wait before you are placed on a jury. During trial, you may have to wait in the jury room while the judge and the lawyers settle questions of law.
Judges and other courtroom personnel will do everything they can to minimize the waiting both before and during trial. Your understanding is appreciated.
What should I wear? Dress comfortably. Suits, ties and other, more formal wear are not necessary. But don't get too informal-beach wear, shorts, halter or tank tops are not appropriate in court. Hats may not be allowed unless worn for religious purposes. What can I bring with me to jury duty? The ideal item to bring with you is a book or a magazine, although sometimes the court will restrict newspapers or magazines containing information that may relate to an upcoming trial. Many courts will allow you to bring a laptop computer, but may not allow a pager or cell phone. Because security is taken very seriously, you may find that everyday items like penknives, knitting needles, scissors, or metal nail files cannot be brought into the court facility. Check with your local court to confirm what you may bring with you. Might I be called but not sit on a jury? Yes. Sometimes parties in a case settle their differences only moments before the trial is scheduled to begin. In such instances, you will be excused with the thanks of the court. What happens if I'm late? As the trial cannot proceed until all jurors are present, it is important that you are on time. If you are unavoidably delayed, please call the court immediately. What if I have an emergency? Because your absence could delay a trial, it is important that you report each day you are required to. If a real emergency occurs-a sudden illness, accident, or death in the family-tell the court staff immediately so that the trial can be scheduled around you. Can I go home during the trial? Usually. But in extremely rare cases, you may be "sequestered" during the trial or during jury deliberations. This is done to assure that jurors don't hear or see something about the case that wasn't mentioned in court. Will I be searched when I come to the courthouse? Most court facilities have security measures in place. Please do not be offended if you are searched-remember that this is to ensure your safety. How long does a trial usually take? In superior courts most trials last 3 or 4 days although, of course, there are exceptions. In district and municipal courts most trials last 1 or 2 days. What types of cases will I hear? Jury cases are either criminal or civil. Civil Cases Civil cases are disputes between private citizens, corporations, governments, government agencies, or other organizations. Usually, the party that brings the suit is asking for money damages for some alleged wrong that has been done. For example, a homeowner may sue a contractor for failure to fix a leaky roof. People who have been injured may sue the person or company they feel is responsible for the injury.
The party that brings the suit is called the plaintiff; the one being sued is called the defendant. There may be a number of plaintiffs or defendants in the same case.
Criminal Cases A criminal case is brought by the state, or a city or county, against one or more persons accused of committing a crime. In these cases, the state, city, or county is the plaintiff; the accused person is the defendant. The defendant is informed of the charge or charges called a complaint or information.
What happens during a trial? Events in a trial usually happen in a particular order, though the order may be changed by the judge. Here's the usual order of events: Step 1: Selection of the jury Step 2: Opening statements Step 3: Presentation of evidence Step 4: Jury instructions Step 5: Closing arguments Step 6: Jury deliberations Step 7: Announcement of the verdict
What happens during jury selection? In the courtroom, your judge will tell you about the case, then introduce the lawyers and others who are involved in it. You will also take an oath, in which you will promise to answer all questions truthfully. After you're sworn in, the judge and the lawyers will question you and other members of the panel to find out if you have any knowledge about the case, any personal interest in it, or any feelings that might make it hard for you to be impartial. This questioning process is called voir dire, which means "to speak the truth."
Though some of the questions may seem personal, you should answer them completely and honestly.
If you are uncomfortable answering them, tell the judge and he/she may ask them privately.
Remember: Questions are not asked to embarrass you. They are intended to make sure members of the jury have no opinions or past experiences which might prevent them from making an impartial decision.
What is the role of the juror? Your job as a juror is to listen to all the evidence presented at trial, then "decide the facts"-decide what really happened. The judge's job is to "decide the law"-make decisions on legal issues that come up during the trial. All must do their job well if our system of trial by jury is to work. You do not need special knowledge or ability to do your job. It is enough that you keep an open mind, use common sense, concentrate on the evidence presented, and be fair and honest in your deliberations.
Remember: Don't be influenced by sympathy or prejudice. It is vital that you be impartial with regard to all testimony and ideas presented at the trial.
What are alternate jurors? Additional jurors are chosen, known as alternates, in the event that any members of the jury are unable to complete the trial for some reason. Alternate jurors participate in the trial proceedings but do not take part in deliberations unless they have been called to replace members of the jury. Can I take notes during the trial? Yes, you may take notes in all trials if you wish. The judge will explain the procedure. Can I ask the witnesses questions during trial? In civil trials, you may propose questions for witness. In criminal trials, you may only propose questions for witness if the judge gives you permission. The judge will explain the procedure.
Employers: The Law and Your DutyYour help is essential! For our jury system to work, it is essential that the courts and employers form a partnership to ensure that all citizens are available to serve on juries when called. Without cooperation from the business community, our system would come to a halt. This is an outcome a democratic society cannot afford. We would lose a fundamental principle upon which we, private and corporate citizens alike, depend. The importance of your participation cannot be emphasized enough. The jury system works for business too. Businesses frequently benefit directly from our legal system. The civil litigation system in particular is filled with a variety of business-related disputes. These include actions concerning contracts, wrongful termination, product defects, environmental issues, malpractice, and intellectual fraud. While employers have valid concerns about how jury service affects their employees and resources, it is important that they understand the length of time employees may need to be absent. It is rare that someone will be required to be present at the court facility for more than a week, although a few trials do last longer.
Employers can do their fair share. Employers and businesses are encouraged to support the jury system by paying employees while they are serving as jurors. In order for society to benefit from fair and open trials, we need to make it easier for citizens to report for jury service. Many citizens cannot afford to serve if they will lose their salaries or wages during jury service. In recent years, far too many jurors have asked to be excused from service because the loss of income they would suffer creates a financial hardship. On the other hand, when the number of jurors claiming financial hardship decreases, a much broader cross-section of society will be free to serve. This will create juries that are truly representative and reflective of our society. By agreeing to compensate employees during jury service, not only will employers continue to enjoy the benefits of the jury system, but they will also contribute toward its improvement.
Payment is voluntary, not mandatory. State law does not currently require employers to continue paying the salary of employees who are absent because of jury service. Many employers, however, including state, federal, and many local governmental agencies, have a policy of compensating employees for at least part, if not all, of the time spent for jury service. If employers do pay, they have the right to require employees to remit to them the fees received for jury service.
Employees are protected from harassment or dismissal. As the employer, you must allow an employee time off to serve on a jury. The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 2.36.165) prohibits any employer from firing or harassing an employee who is summoned to court to serve as a juror. An employer who intentionally violates this statute could be found guilty of a misdemeanor. In addition, an employee is entitled to bring a civil action for damages as a result of the violation and for an order requiring reinstatement.
A Juror's GuideWelcome to jury service!Your job as a juror is to listen to all the evidence presented at trial, then "decide the facts"-- decide what really happened. The judge's job is to "decide the law" -- make decisions on legal issues that come up during the trial. All must do their job well if our system of trial by jury is to work.
You do not need special knowledge or ability to do your job. It is enough that you keep an open mind, use common sense, concentrate on the evidence presented, and be fair and honest in your deliberations.
Remember: Don't be influenced by sympathy or prejudice. It is vital that you be impartial with regard to all testimony and ideas presented at the trial.
We hope you find your experience as a juror interesting and satisfying. Thanks for your willingness to serve!
Prepared by the Superior Court Judges' Association and the District & Municipal Court Judges' Association of the State of Washington
How was I chosen?First, your name was selected at random from voter registration and driver's license and "identicard" records. Then, your answers to the juror questionnaire were evaluated to make sure you were eligible for jury service.
To be eligible, you must be at least 18 years of age, a citizen of the United States, a resident of the county in which you are to serve as a juror, and you must be able to communicate in English. If you have ever been convicted of a felony, you must have had your civil rights restored. Those eligible may be excused from jury service if they have illnesses that would interfere with their ability to do a good job, would suffer great hardship if required to serve, or are unable to serve for other legitimate reasons.
In short, you were chosen because you are eligible and able to serve. You are now part of the "jury pool" -- a group of citizens from which trial juries are chosen.
In the courtroom, your judge will tell you about the case, then introduce the lawyers and others who are involved in it. You will also take an oath, in which you will promise to answer all questions truthfully.
After you're sworn in, the judge and the lawyers will question you and other members of the panel to find out if you have any knowledge about the case, any personal interest in it, or any feelings that might make it hard for you to be impartial. This questioning process is called voir dire, which means "to speak the truth."
Though some of the questions may seem personal, you should answer them completely and honestly.
If you are uncomfortable answering them, tell the judge and he/she may ask them privately.
Remember: Questions are not asked to embarrass you. They are intended to make sure members of the jury have no opinions or past experiences which might prevent them from making an impartial decision.
How many days and hours you work as a juror depends on the jury selection system in your county. The judge may vary daily working hours to accommodate witnesses who have special travel or schedule problems.
You may be struck by how much waiting you have to do. For example, you may have to wait before you are placed on a jury. During trial, you may have to wait in the jury room while the judge and the lawyers settle questions of law.
Judges and other courtroom personnel will do everything they can to minimize the waiting both before and during trial. Your understanding is appreciated.
Usually. But in extremely rare cases, you may be "sequestered" during the trial or during jury deliberations. This is done to assure that jurors don't hear or see something about the case that wasn't mentioned in court.
Dress comfortably. Suits, ties and other, more formal wear are not necessary. But don't get too informal -- beach wear, shorts, halter or tank tops are not appropriate in court. Hats may not be allowed unless worn for religious purposes.
Judges and employees of Washington courts are committed to making jury service accessible to everyone. Though some courthouses are outdated and do not meet modern, American Disability Act standards, attempts to accommodate all jurors will be made. Remember: If you have a hearing, sight or mobility problem, ask a member of the court staff for help.
Washington law says employers , "shall provide an employee with sufficient leave of absence from employment when that employee is summoned" for jury duty. It also says employers, "shall not deprive an employee of employment or threaten, coerce, or harass an employee or deny an employee promotional opportunities" for serving as a juror. It does not say your employer has to pay you while you serve.
Because your absence could delay a trial, it is important that you report each day you are required to. If a real emergency occurs -- a sudden illness, accident or death in the family -- tell the court staff immediately so that the trial can be scheduled around you.
Civil cases Civil cases are disputes between private citizens, corporations, governments, government agencies, or other organizations. Usually, the party that brings the suit is asking for money damages for some alleged wrong that has been done. For example, a homeowner may sue a contractor for failure to fix a leaky roof. People who have been injured may sue the person or company they feel is responsible for the injury.
The party that brings the suit is called the plaintiff, the one being sued is called the defendant. There may be a number of plaintiffs or defendants in the same case.
Criminal cases A criminal case is brought by the state, or a city or county against one or more persons accused of committing a crime. In these cases, the state, city, or county is the plaintiff; and the accused person is the defendant. The defendant is informed of the charge, or charges called a complaint or information.
During trial:1. DO arrive on time and DO return promptly after breaks and lunch. The trial cannot proceed until all jurors are present.
2. DO pay close attention. If you cannot hear what is being said, raise your hand and let the judge know.
3. DO keep an open mind all through the trial.
4. DO listen carefully to the instructions read by the judge. Remember, it is your duty to accept what the judge says about the law to be applied to the case.
5. DON'T try to guess what the judge thinks about the case. Remember that rulings from the bench do not reflect the judge's personal views.
6. DON'T talk about the case, or issues raised by the case with anyone--including other jurors--while the trial is going on, and DON'T let others talk about the case in your presence, even family members. If someone insists on talking to you or another juror about the case, please report the matter to a court employee. These rules are designed to help you keep an open mind during the trial.
7. DON'T talk to the lawyers, parties, or witnesses about anything. This will avoid the impression that something unfair is going on.
8. DON'T try to uncover evidence on your own. Never, for example, go to the scene of an event that was part of the case you are hearing. You must decide the case only on the basis of evidence admitted in court.
9. DON'T let yourself get information about the case from the news media or any other outside source. Even if news reports are accurate and complete, they cannot substitute for your own impressions about the case. If you accidentally hear outside information about the case during trial, tell a member of the court staff in private.
During deliberation:1. DO work out differences between yourself and other jurors through complete and fair discussions of the evidence and of the judge's instructions. DON'T lose your temper, try to bully or refuse to listen to the opinions of other jurors.
2. DON'T mark or write on exhibits or otherwise change or injure them.
3. DON'T try to guess what might happen if the case you have heard is appealed. Appellate courts deal only with legal questions--they will not change your verdict if you decided the facts based on proper evidence and instructions.
4. DON'T draw straws, flip coins or otherwise arrive at your verdict by chance, or the decision will be illegal. It is also improper for a jury to determine damage awards by averaging the amounts calculated by each individual juror.
5. DON'T talk to anyone about your deliberations or about the verdict until the judge discharges the jury. After discharge, you may discuss the verdict and the deliberations with anyone, including the media, the lawyers, or your family. But DON'T feel obligated to do so -- no juror can be forced to talk without a court order.
Six-year terms Appeals from the Court of Appeals Administers state court system Court of Appeals Six-year terms Division I, Seattle Division II, Tacoma Division III, Spokane Appeals from lower courts except those in jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Superior Court Four-year terms 30 judicial districts Civil matters Domestic relations Felony criminal cases Juvenile matters Appeals from courts of limited jurisdiction Courts of Limited Jurisdiction Four-year terms District and Municipal Courts Misdemeanor criminal cases Traffic, non-traffic, and parking infractions Domestic violence protection orders Civil actions of $75,000 or less Small claims
Glossary of Terms A acquit To find a defendant not guilty in a criminal trial. action Proceeding taken in a court of law. Synonymous with case, suit, lawsuit. adjudication A judgment or decree. Administrator One who administers the estate of a person who dies without leaving a will. A court official. advance sheets Initial, temporary publications of decisions of Washington's appellate courts. Advanced sheets are published weekly. adversary system Basic U.S. trial system in which each of the opposing parties has an opportunity to state his or her viewpoint before the court. Plaintiff argues for defendant's guilt (criminal) or liability (civil). Defense argues for defendant's innocence (criminal) or against liability (civil). affidavit A written or printed declaration or statement under oath. See certificate under penalty of perjury of perjury. affidavit of prejudice A written motion by a party to a judge, requesting that the judge not hear the case. affirm The assertion of an appellate court that the judgment of the lower court is correct and should stand. allegation An assertion, declaration or statement of a party to an action made in a pleading, stating what the party expects to prove. alleged (allegation) Stated; recited; claimed; asserted; charged. answer A formal response to a claim, admitting or denying the allegations in the claim. appeal Review of a case by a higher court. appeal on the record Refers to a review by a superior court of a district or municipal court decision, through an examination of the lower court's transcript, tape recording or other official documentation of the proceeding. appearance 1. The formal proceeding by which a defendant submits to the jurisdiction of the court. 2. A written notification to the plaintiff by an attorney stating that he or she is representing the defendant. appellant Party appealing a decision or judgment to a higher court. appellate court A court having jurisdiction over appeal and review. appellee The party against whom an appeal is taken. See respondent. arbitration The hearing and settlement of a dispute between opposing parties by a third party whose decision the parties have agreed to accept. arraignment In criminal cases, a court hearing where a defendant is advised of the charges and asked to plead guilty or not guilty. at issue The time in a lawsuit when the complaining party has stated a claim, the other side has responded with a denial and the matter is ready to be tried. attachment Taking a person's property to satisfy a court-ordered debt. attorney at law A lawyer; one who is licensed to act as a representative for another in a legal matter or proceeding. attorney of record An attorney, named in the records of a case, who is responsible for handling the case on behalf of the party he or she represents.
B bail An amount of money determined by the judge and posted with the court clerk as security. bail bond An agreement by a third party to pay a certain sum of money if the defendant fails to appear in court. bailiff A court employee who, among other things, maintains order in the courtroom and is responsible for custody of the jury. bankruptcy A legal proceeding where a person or business is relieved of paying certain debts. bench warrant Process issued by the court itself or "from the bench" for the attachment or arrest of a person. best evidence Primary evidence; the best evidence which is available; any evidence falling short of this standard is secondary; i.e., an original letter is best evidence compared to a copy. brief A legal document, prepared by an attorney, which presents the law and facts supporting his or her client's case. burden of proof Measure of proof required to prove a fact. Obligation of a party to prove facts at issue in the trial of a case.
C calendar List of cases arranged for hearing in court. caption The caption of a pleading, or other papers connected with a case in court, is the heading or introductory clause which shows the names of the parties, name of the court, number of the case, etc. case Any proceeding, action, cause, lawsuit or controversy initiated through the court system by filing a complaint, petition, indictment or information. caseload The number of cases a judge handles in a specific time period. cause of action A legal claim. certificate under penalty of perjury A written statement, certified by the maker as being under penalty of perjury. In many circumstances, it may be used in lieu of an affidavit. See affidavit. certiorari Procedure for removing a case from a lower court or administrative agency to a higher court for review. challenge for cause A request by a party that the court excuse a specific juror on the basis that the juror is biased. chambers A judge's private office. change of venue The removal of a case begun in one court, to another. See venue. charge Formal accusation of having committed a criminal offense. chief judge Presiding or administrative judge in a court. chief justice Presiding justice of the Supreme Court. circumstantial evidence All evidence of indirect nature; the process of decision by which judge or jury may reason from circumstances known or proved to establish by inference the principal fact. citation 1. Summons to appear in court. 2. Reference to authorities in support of a legal argument. civil law All law that is not criminal law. Usually pertains to the settlement of disputes between individuals, organizations or groups and having to do with the establishment, recovery or redress of private and civil rights. claim The assertion of a right to money or property. clerk of court An officer of a court whose principal duty is to maintain court records and preserve evidence presented during a trial. closing argument The closing statement, by counsel, to the trier of facts after all parties have concluded their presentation of evidence. code A collection, compendium or revision of laws systematically arranged into chapters, table of contents and index and promulgated by legislative authority. commit To lawfully send a person to prison, a reformatory or an asylum. common law The system of jurisprudence which is based on judicial precedent, rather than legislatively enacted statutes of law. Also called "case law." community service A sentencing alternative usually used in lieu of a monetary penalty or fine. commutation Change of punishment from a greater to a lesser degree, such as from death to life imprisonment or ending a sentence that has been partially served. comparative negligence Negligence of a plaintiff in a civil suit which decreases the recovery of damages by his or her percentage of negligence compared to a defendant's negligence. competency In the law of evidence, the presence of those characteristics which render a witness legally fit and qualified to give testimony. complainant One who makes a complaint. See plaintiff. complaint l. (criminal) Formal written charge that a person has committed a criminal offense. 2. (civil) Initial document entered by the plaintiff which states the claims against the defendant. condemnation The legal process by which real estate of a private owner is taken for public use without consent but upon the award and payment of just compensation. contempt of court Any act that is meant to embarrass, hinder or obstruct a court in the administration of justice. Direct contempt is committed in the presence of the court; indirect contempt is when a lawful order is not carried out or is refused. contested hearing A hearing held in courts of limited jurisdiction for the purpose of allowing a person to dispute the determination that an infraction has been committed. The person may subpoena and examine witnesses and present evidence. Such hearings are held without a jury. continuance Adjournment of the proceedings in a case from one day to another. convict 1.To find a person guilty of a charge (verb). 2. One who has been found guilty of a crime or misdemeanor; usually refers to convicted felons or prisoners in penitentiaries (noun). corpus delicti The body or material substance upon which crime has been committed; e.g., the corpse of a murdered person, the charred remains of a burned house. corroborating evidence Evidence supplementary to that already given and tending to strengthen or confirm it. costs An allowance for expenses in prosecuting or defending a suit. Ordinarily does not include attorney's fees. counterclaim Claim presented by a defendant in opposition to, or deduction from, the claim of the plaintiff. county clerk Elected official who is clerk of the superior court. See clerk of court. court 1. Place where justice is administered. 2. Judge or judges sitting in the court administering justice. court administrator Manager of administrative, nonjudicial affairs of the court. court commissioner A judicial officer at both trial and appellate court levels who performs many of the same duties as judges and justices. court of appeals Intermediate appellate court to which most appeals are taken from superior court. court reporter Person who records and transcribes the verbatim testimony and all other oral statements made during court sessions. court, district Court of limited jurisdiction where civil cases up to $50,000 and small claims cases up to $2,500 can be heard. Criminal and gross misdemeanors and traffic citations are also heard in district court. court, juvenile Division of superior court that deals with the conduct and circumstances of children under the age of 18. court, municipal Court whose jurisdiction is confined to a city or local community. In Washington, jurisdiction is generally limited to criminal and traffic offenses arising from violation of local ordinances. court, small claims A division of state district court where parties can bring claims up to $4,000. Procedures are simplified and lawyers are generally not allowed. court, superior State trial court of general jurisdiction. See general jurisdiction. court, supreme "Court of last resort." Highest court in the state and final appellate court. courts of limited jurisdiction Includes district and municipal courts. crime Conduct declared unlawful by a legislative body and for which there is a punishment of a jail or prison term, a fine, or both. criminal insanity Lack of mental capacity to do or abstain from doing a particular act; inability to distinguish right from wrong. criminal law Body of law pertaining to crimes against the state or conduct detrimental to society as a whole. Violation of criminal statutes are punishable by law. cross-examination The questioning of a witness by the party opposed to the one who produced the witness. custody Detaining of a person by lawful process or authority to assure that individual's appearance to any hearing; the jailing or imprisonment of a person convicted of a crime.
D damages Compensation recovered in the courts by a person who has suffered loss, detriment or injury to his or her person, property or rights, through the unlawful act or negligence of another. de novo "Anew." A trial de novo is a completely new trial held as if the original trial in the court of limited jurisdiction had never taken place. declaratory judgment A judgment that declares the rights of the parties on a question of law. decree Decision or order of the court. A final decree completes the suit; an interlocutory decree is a provisional or preliminary decree which is not final. default A failure of a party to respond in a timely manner to a pleading; a failure to appear for trial. defendant (criminal) Person charged with a crime. (civil) Person against whom a civil action is brought. defense attorney The attorney who represents the defendant. deferred sentence See sentence, deferred. deposition Sworn testimony taken and recorded in an authorized place outside of the courtroom, according to the rules of the court. determinate sentence See sentence, determinate. direct examination The questioning of a witness by the party who produced the witness. discovery A pretrial proceeding where a party to an action may be informed about (or "discover") the facts known by other parties or witnesses. dismissal with prejudice Dismissal of a case by a judge which bars the losing party from raising the issue again in another lawsuit. dismissal without prejudice The losing party is permitted to sue again with the same cause of action. disposition Determination of a charge; termination of any legal action. A sentence of a juvenile offender. dissent The disagreement of one or more judges of a court with the decision of the majority. dissolution Legal ending of a marriage. Formerly called divorce. District and Municipal Court Judges' Association Association of judges of courts of limited jurisdiction established by statute to study and make recommendations concerning the operation of the courts served by its members. district court See court, district. divorce See dissolution. docket Book containing entries of all proceedings in a court. domicile Place considered to be a person's permanent home. double jeopardy Prohibition against more than one prosecution for the same crime. due process Constitutional guarantee that an accused person receive a fair and impartial trial. DUI Driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs.
E eminent domain The power to take private property for public use by condemnation. See condemnation. en banc "On the bench." All judges of a court sitting together to hear a case. enjoin To require a person to perform, or abstain or desist from some act. entrapment The act of officers or agents of a government in inducing a person to commit a crime not contemplated by the person, for the purpose of instituting a criminal prosecution against him or her. et al "And others." evidence Any form of proof legally presented at a trial through witnesses, records, documents, etc. See expert evidence. ex parte 1. A proceeding brought for the benefit of one party only, without notice to or challenge by an adverse party. 2. The department of the court which hears ex parte proceedings. exhibit Paper, document or other object received by the court as evidence during a trial or hearing. expert evidence Testimony given by those qualified to speak with authority regarding scientific, technical or professional matters. extradition The surrender by one state to another of an individual accused or convicted of an offense outside its own territory and within the territorial jurisdiction of the other.
F fact-finding hearing A proceeding where facts relevant to deciding a controversy are determined. felony A crime of graver nature than a gross misdemeanor. fine A sum of money imposed upon a convicted person as punishment for a criminal offense or infraction. fraud An intentional perversion of truth; deceitful practice or device resorted to with intent to deprive another of property or other right or in some manner to do injury to that person.
G garnishment Proceeding whereby property, money or credits of a debtor in the possession of another are applied to the debts of the debtor, as in the garnishment of a person's wages. general jurisdiction Refers to courts that have no limit on the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. Superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction. grand jury A body of persons sworn to inquire into crime and, if appropriate, bring accusations (indictments) against the suspected criminals. Not generally used in Washington. gross misdemeanor See misdemeanor. guardian ad litem A person appointed by a court to manage the interests of a minor or incompetent person whose property is involved in litigation.
H habeas corpus "You have the body." A writ of habeas corpus requires a person be brought before a judge. It is usually used to direct an official to produce a prisoner so that the court may determine if such person has been denied his or her liberty without du e process. hearing An in-court proceeding before a judge, generally open to the public. hearsay Evidence based on what the witness has heard someone else say, rather than what the witness has personally experienced or observed. hung jury A jury whose members cannot agree on a verdict. hypothetical question A combination of facts and circumstances, assumed or proved, stated in such a form as to constitute a coherent statement of facts upon which the opinion of an expert can be asked by way of evidence in a trial.
I immunity Freedom from duty or penalty. impeachment of a witness An attack on the credibility of a witness by the testimony of other witnesses. inadmissible That which, under the established rules of evidence, cannot be admitted or received. indictment Written accusation of a grand jury, charging that a person or business has committed a crime. indigent Needy; poor; impoverished. A defendant who can demonstrate his or her indigence to the court may be assigned a court-appointed attorney at public expense. information An accusation of some criminal offense, in the nature of an indictment, but which is presented by a competent public officer instead of a grand jury. infraction An act which is prohibited by law but which is not legally defined as a crime. In Washington State, many traffic violations are classified as infractions. injunction Writ or order by a court prohibiting a specific action from being carried out by a person or group. instruction Direction given by a judge to the jury regarding the applicable law in a given case. interrogatories Written questions developed by one party's attorney for the opposing party. Interrogatories must be answered under oath within a specific period of time. intervention Proceeding in a suit where a third person is allowed, with the court's permission, to join the suit as a party.
J judge An elected or appointed public official with authority to hear and decide cases in a court of law. judge, pro tem Temporary judge. judgment Final determination by a court of the rights and claims of the parties in an action. jurisdiction Authority of a court to exercise judicial power. jurisprudence The science of law. juror Member of a jury. jury Specific number of people (usually 6 or 12), selected as prescribed by law to render a decision (verdict) in a trial. See trier of facts. juvenile court See court, juvenile.
L law The combination of those rules and principles of conduct promulgated by legislative authority, derived from court decisions and established by local custom. law clerks Persons trained in the law who assist judges in researching legal opinions. leading question One which suggests to a witness the answer desired. Generally prohibited on direct examination. limited jurisdiction Refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. District, municipal and traffic violation bureaus are courts of limited jurisdiction. litigant One who is engaged in a lawsuit. litigation Contest in court; a law suit.
M magistrate Court official with limited authority. mandate Command from a court directing the enforcement of a judgment, sentence or decree. mandatory arbitration The hearing and settlement of a dispute, involving a money judgment of $50,000 or less, by a third party whose decision is binding on the parties. misdemeanor Criminal offenses less than felonies; generally those punishable by fine or imprisonment of less than 90 days in a local facility. A gross misdemeanor is a criminal offense for which an adult could be sent to jail for up to one year, pay a fine up to $5,000 or both. mistrial Erroneous or invalid trial. Usually declared because of prejudicial error in the proceedings or when there was a hung jury. mitigating circumstances Those which do not constitute a justification or excuse for an offense but which may be considered as reasons for reducing the degree of blame. mitigation hearing A hearing held in courts of limited jurisdiction for the purpose of allowing a person to explain the circumstances surrounding his or her commission of an infraction. The determination that an infraction has been committed may not be contested. modify In the appellate process, to change the terms of, rather than revise, a judgment of a trial court, administrative agency or intermediate appellate court. monetary penalty A penalty levied against a person convicted of a traffic infraction. moot Previously decided or settled, but lacking legal authority. A moot point is one not settled by judicial decisions. motion Oral or written request made by a party to an action before, during or after a trial upon which a court issues a ruling or order. municipal courts See courts, municipal.
O oath Written or oral pledge by a person to keep a promise or speak the truth. objection Statement by an attorney taking exception to testimony or the attempted admission of evidence and opposing its consideration as evidence. of counsel Phrase used to identify attorneys that are employed by a party to assist in the preparation and management of a case but who are not the principal attorneys of record in the case. offender 1. A person who has committed a felony, as established by state law, and is 18 years of age or older. 2. A person who is less than 18 but whose felony case has been transferred by the juvenile court to a criminal court. omnibus hearing A pretrial hearing normally scheduled at the same time the trial date is established. Purpose of the hearing is to ensure each party receives (or "discovers") vital information concerning the case held by the other. In addition, the judge may ru le on the scope of discovery or on the admissibility of challenged evidence. opening statement The initial statement made by attorneys for each side, outlining the facts each intends to establish during the trial. opinion Statement of decision by a judge or court regarding a case tried before it. Published opinions are printed because they contain new legal interpretations. Unpublished opinions, based on legal precedent, are not printed. opinion, per curiam Phrase used to distinguish an opinion of the whole court from an opinion written by only one judge. overrule 1. Court's denial of any motion or point raised to the court. 2. To overturn or void a decision made in a prior case.
P parties Persons, corporations, or associations who have commenced a lawsuit or who are defendants. penalty assessment An assessment or fee added to a monetary penalty or fine. Such fees are earmarked for the support of specific state programs such as traffic safety, criminal justice training, etc. peremptory challenge Procedure which parties in an action may use to reject prospective jurors without giving a reason. Each side is allowed a limited number of such challenges. perjury Making intentionally false statements under oath. Perjury is a criminal offense. personal recognizance In criminal proceedings, the pretrial release of a defendant without bail upon the defendant's promise to return to court. petition Written application to a court requesting a remedy available under law. petition for review A document filed in the state Supreme Court asking for a review of a decision made by the Court of Appeals. petitioner See plaintiff. plaintiff The party who begins an action; the party who complains or sues in an action and is named as such in the court's records. Also called a petitioner. plea A criminal defendant's official statement of "guilty" or "not guilty" to the charge. plea bargaining In a criminal case, the process in which the accused and the prosecutor negotiate a mutually satisfactory disposition of the case. Such bargains are not binding on the court. pleadings Formal, written allegations by the parties of their respective claims. polling the jury A practice whereby the jurors are asked individually whether they agreed, and still agree, with the verdict. power of attorney Document authorizing another to act as one's agent or attorney in fact (Not an attorney at law). precedent Previously decided case which is recognized as an authority for determining future cases. preponderance of evidence The general standard of proof in civil cases. The weight of evidence presented by one side is more convincing to the trier of facts than the evidence presented by the opposing side. presentence report A report to the sentencing judge containing background information about the crime and the defendant to assist the judge in making his or her sentencing decision. presiding judge Chief or administrative judge of a court. See chief judge. pro tem "Temporary." See judge, pro tem. probable cause Reasonable cause; having more evidence for than against; a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed; the basis for all lawful searches, seizures, and arrests. probate The legal process of establishing the validity of a will and settling an estate. probation Set of conditions and regulations under which a person found guilty of a criminal offense is allowed to remain in the community, usually under the supervision of a probation officer. proceeding Any hearing or court appearance related to the adjudication of a case. prosecution 1. Act of pursuing a lawsuit or criminal trial. 2. The State of Washington, the party that initiates a criminal case. prosecutor The public officer in each county who is a lawyer and who represents the interests of the state in criminal trials and the county in all legal matters involving the county. In criminal cases, the prosecutor has the responsibility of deciding who and when to prosecute. Also known as prosecuting attorney.
R reasonable doubt If, in the minds of the jury, a doubt exists which may have arisen from the evidence, or lack of evidence, a doubt that would exist in the mind of a reasonable person after fully, fairly, and carefully considering all of the evidence, or lack of evidence. rebuttal The introduction of contradicting or opposing evidence showing what a witness said is not true; the stage of a trial at which such evidence may be introduced. record 1. To preserve in writing, print or by film, tape, etc. 2. History of a case. 3. The word-for-word (verbatim) written or tape-recorded account of all proceedings of a trial. See transcript. record on appeal The portion of the record of a lower court necessary to allow a higher court to review the case. redirect examination Follows cross-examination and is carried out by the party who first examined the witness. remand To send back. A disposition by an appellate court that results in sending the case back to the original court from which it came for further proceedings. reply Pleading by the plaintiff in response to the defendant's written answer. respondent 1. Party against whom an appeal is brought in an appellate court; the prevailing party in the trial court case. 2. A juvenile offender. restitution Act of giving the equivalent for any loss, damage or injury. rests the case When a party's presentation of evidence is concluded. reversal Setting aside, annulling, vacating, or changing to the contrary, the decision of a lower court or other body.
S search and seizure, unreasonable In general, an examination without authority of law, of one's premises or person for the purpose of discovering stolen or illegal property or some other evidence of guilt to be used in prosecuting a crime. search warrant A written order, issued by a judge or magistrate in the name of the state, directing an officer to search a specified house or other place for stolen property, drugs, or contraband. Usually required as a condition for a legal search and seizure. sentence Judgment formally pronounced by a judge upon a defendant following conviction in a criminal prosecution. sentence, concurrent Two or more sentences which run at the same time. sentence, consecutive Two or more sentences which run one after another. sentence, deferred An alternative to a prison sentence consisting of probation, jail, or other appropriate condition. sentence, determinate A sentence that states exactly the number of actual years, months or days of total confinement, partial confinement or community supervision or the number of actual hours or days of community service work or dollars or terms of a fine or restitution. The fact an offender can, through "earned early release", reduce the actual period of confinement, does not affect the classification of the sentence as a determinate sentence. sentence, suspended Execution of the sentence has been withheld by the court based on certain terms and conditions. separation (jury) Recessing the jury for meals. service Delivery of a legal document to the opposite party. set aside Annul or void as in "setting aside" a judgment. settlement 1. Conclusion of a legal matter. 2. Compromise agreement by opposing parties in a civil suit before judgment is made, eliminating the need for the judge to resolve the controversy. settlement conference A meeting between parties of a lawsuit, their counsel and a judge to attempt a resolution of the dispute small claims See court, small claims. speedy trial Right of a defendant to be tried promptly. statute A law created by the Legislature. statute of limitations Law which specifies the time within which parties must take judicial action to enforce their rights. stay Halting of a judicial proceeding by order of the court. stipulation Agreement by the attorneys and parties on opposite sides of a case regarding any matter in the trial proceedings. subpoena Document issued by the authority of the court to compel a witness to appear and give testimony or produce documentary evidence in a proceeding. Failure to appear or produce is punishable by contempt of court. subpoena duces tecum "Bring the document with you." A process by which the court commands a witness to produce specific documents or records in a trial. suit Any court proceeding in which an individual seeks a decision. See case. summons Document or writ directing the sheriff or other officer to notify a person that an action has been commenced against him or her in court and that he or she is required to appear, on a certain day, and answer the complaint in such action. Superior Court Judges' Association Association of judges of Washington's courts of general jurisdiction established by statute to study and make recommendations concerning the administration of justice in the courts served by its members. suspended sentence See sentence, suspended.
T testimony Any statement made by a witness under oath in a legal proceeding. tort An injury or wrong committed, with or without force, to the person or property of another, which gives rise to a claim for damages. transcript The official record of proceedings in a trial or hearing, which is kept by the court reporter. trial The presentation of evidence in court to a trier of fact who applies the applicable law to those facts and then decides the case. trial de novo See de novo. trier of facts The jury or, in a non-jury trial, the judge.
V venue The specific county, city or geographical area in which a court has jurisdiction. See change of venue. verdict Formal decision made by a judge or jury (trier of facts). voir dire (pronounced "vwar-deer") - "To speak the truth." The process of preliminary examination of prospective jurors, by the court or attorneys, regarding their qualifications.
W Washington Appellate Reports Bound volumes that contain printed decisions of the state's Court of Appeals. Washington Reports Bound volumes that contain printed decisions of the Washington State Supreme Court. Washington State Bar Association A state wide association of attorneys organized under rules of the Washington State Supreme Court to administer bar examinations, conduct a mandatory legal education program for attorneys and perform disciplinary functions in those cases where it appears an attorney may have violated rules of the Attorney's Code of Professional Conduct. More than 20,500 active members belong to the association (1997). willful act An intentional act carried out without justifiable cause. witness Person who testifies under oath before a court, regarding what he or she has seen, heard or otherwise observed. writ A special, written court order directing a person to perform, or refrain from performing, a specific act.
Washington State Jury CommissionSummary List of Recommendations Increasing Summons Response:
1. A variety of procedures should be developed to address the concerns of those citizens unwilling to participate in jury service. Follow-up procedures should be developed for courts to use where there is no response to a jury summons.
2. Every opportunity should be taken to educate the public on the importance of jury service and to increase diversity on juries by extensive outreach to targeted communities. The implementation committee should coordinate efforts to accomplish this.
3. The format of the addresses in the jury source list databases should be standardized before the databases are combined. The correct county code should be assigned to the licensing data.
4. The combined list should be processed through a National Change of Address program in order to obtain updated address information before mailing.
5. The rules of general application relating to jury source lists should be modified to eliminate license and identicard holder records that have been expired for more than 90 days and to specify that only "active" registered voter records be considered for use in jury source lists.
6. The timing of the jury source list process should be re-examined to enable jurisdictions to perform their annual draw while the list data is still current.
7. All undeliverable and changed address information gathered by the courts should be delivered to the Department of Licensing as well as to county election departments for processing. The Department of Licensing and county auditors should use this information for database corrections. County clerks should be encouraged to create suspense files for chronic non-deliverable addresses.
Accommodating Citizens Called to Jury Service:
8. Courts should require jury service for the shortest period possible. Therefore, the statute should be amended to shorten the jury term to a maximum of one week and jury service to a maximum of two days or one trial.
9. Jurors should be provided with full and complete information about jury service from the time they are summoned.
10. In order to promote broad citizen participation and to send a message that courts respect the time commitments of citizens, a state-wide policy should be established to enforce and strictly limit the granting of jury excuses while liberally granting requests for postponement.
11. RCW 2.36.070 should be amended to include a pilot project allowing non-English-speaking citizens to serve on a jury with the aid of a certified interpreter.
12. The Commission views a fee increase as its highest priority. Citizens required to perform jury service should be compensated fairly and appropriately. Legislation should be drafted requiring that current fees be raised, with the increase funded by the state. Local jurisdictions are encouraged to provide or pay for transportation and parking. Jurors could donate their fees and expenses to a court jury improvement fund.
13. Courts should make every effort to utilize jurors efficiently. They should avoid calling more citizens to the court facility for jury service than needed.
14. Each court should maintain adequate facilities for jurors with the appropriate seating, work space, rest rooms, light, and temperature control necessary to facilitate jury selection and deliberations. Special consideration should be given to jurors with disabilities or other special needs. Courts must make every effort to provide the appropriate facilities to accommodate these needs.
15. Amenities to improve the experience of jury service should be provided wherever possible.
16. At the start of a jury trial, the judge should inform the jurors of the court's normal working hours, as well as the working hours that could be expected during deliberations. The judge should determine whether the jurors have any special needs that justify setting different times.
17. Judges and court personnel should assist jurors to handle the stress that may be caused by jury service.
Protecting Juror Privacy:
18. Judges should have discretion to balance a party's interest or right to know any particular information about a juror with the juror's privacy interest. Judges must exercise discretion to balance jurors' privacy interests with those of the general public.
19. The juror summons should provide useful information to the potential juror and require of the juror only that information mandated by statute. A standardized summons form should be created for use and modification by any jurisdiction.
20. The court should try to protect jurors from unreasonable and unnecessary intrusions into their privacy during jury selection. In appropriate cases, the trial court should submit written questionnaires to potential jurors regarding information that they may be embarrassed to disclose before other jurors. Before dismissing jurors from service on a trial, the court should inform jurors of their rights to discuss or refrain from discussing the case.
Improving Jury Selection Procedures:
21. Trial courts should make available to attorneys a written statement of the court's standard practices for jury selection. The court's standard practices should ensure that the parties have a full opportunity to select a fair jury while avoiding undue and unreasonable juror discomfort and embarrassment.
22. The judge should give prospective jurors a brief and neutral description of the case after consulting with the parties and before jury selection. The description should be sufficiently detailed to assist jurors in answering questions during jury selection and while performing their duties. The judge should advise the jury that the description represents the contentions of the parties and does not imply the court's view on the merits of the case.
23. A party should raise any Batson objections to the opposing party's peremptory challenges before the jury is impaneled. The court should exercise its discretionary power to raise Batson objections on its own motion. Batson challenges, and objections to these challenges, should be handled outside the jurors' presence.
24. Alternate jurors should be told that they are alternates at the beginning of the trial.
Improving the Trial Process for Jurors:
25. Trial judges should set reasonable overall time limits for each party at trial. To set time limits, the court should consider among other factors: the number of witnesses; the number and complexity of issues; the respective evidentiary burdens of the parties; the nature of evidence to be presented; the feasibility of shortening trial by stipulations; and pre-admitting exhibits.
26. Judges should encourage all trial participants to use plain language likely to be understood by the jury. Judges should also take steps to minimize juror confusion.
27. In both civil and criminal cases, after the jury is impaneled, the judge should instruct the jurors as to the basic elements of the claims, charges, and defenses. The judge must inform the jurors that the instructions are preliminary only and that their deliberations must be governed by the final instructions.
28. When the procedure will assist jurors, the court should distribute place cards, name tags, or seating charts identifying parties, witnesses, counsel, and other pertinent individuals in the courtroom.
29. Court rules should be amended to allow jurors to take notes in every case, regardless of the length or complexity of the trial. Jurors should be permitted to review their own notes in the jury room during recesses.
30. Juror notebooks should be provided in lengthy or complex cases and in other cases at the judge's discretion. The notebooks should contain information that will help jurors perform their duties, such as preliminary instructions, a summary of claims and defenses, and copies of key exhibits.
31. Exhibits and depositions should be marked and admitted to the greatest extent feasible before potential jurors are conducted to the courtroom for jury selection.
32. When a witness appears by written or videotaped deposition, the testimony proposed for admission should be identified and objections to admission resolved before potential jurors arrive at the courtroom. When deposition testimony is read to the jury, each juror should be provided, to the extent feasible, with a redacted transcript of the testimony for the juror's use during the reading. Redactions should not be apparent to the jury.
33. In every case, jurors should be permitted to submit written clarifying questions to witnesses, subject to careful judicial supervision. The decision of whether to permit a question rests with the judge, although counsel retain the right to object to the scope or content of any specific question. Jurors are not permitted to ask oral questions. The rules of civil procedure and criminal procedure should be amended accordingly.
34. In long trials, the court should consider allowing periodic mini-opening statements to improve juror understanding.
35. To the greatest extent feasible, each juror should be given a copy of the jury instructions before oral instruction by the court.
36. Jury instructions should be readily comprehensible by jurors. They should be case specific and stated in plain language. The number and length of instructions should be reduced to a minimum.
Improving the Deliberating Process:
37. Washington's Pattern Jury Instructions should provide jurors with suggested deliberation procedures. The suggested procedures should include selecting a presiding juror, organizing the discussion, encouraging full participation by all jurors, handling disagreements, and taking votes.
38. Trial judges should make every effort to respond fully and fairly to questions from deliberating jurors. Judges should not merely refer them to the instructions without further comment or tell them to rely upon their memories of the evidence. In doing so, judges should be careful not to pressure the jury or state or imply any view of the case's merits.
39. The final jury instructions should explain the procedures for requesting clarification of instructions. The judge should advise the jury to submit any questions about instructions in writing to the bailiff.
40. When a jury question arises during deliberations regarding the evidence, the judge should notify the parties or their counsel of the question. The judge should read the question and solicit comments regarding the appropriate response. The response and any objections to it should be made a part of the record. This process should be mandated by court rule. The judge should, after consulting with the parties or counsel, respond to all jury questions, even if the response is no more than a directive to rely upon their memories of the evidence. The court may allow the jury to review evidence (e.g., replaying audio or video tapes) if such review is not unfairly prejudicial to either party. The court may grant a jury's request to rehear or replay trial testimony, but should do so in a way that is least likely to constitute a comment on the evidence and that minimizes the possibility that jurors will give undue weight to the selected testimony.
41. When deliberating jurors in a civil case report that they cannot reach a verdict, the judge should take additional steps after confirming that the jury is, in fact, deadlocked. The judge should invite the jury to state, in writing, the points of law or evidence upon which it cannot agree and desires help. The judge should discuss the jury's response with counsel before deciding how to proceed. The judge can provide additional instructions, permit additional closing arguments, reread or replay testimony, reopen the trial for more evidence, or allow a combination of these. In communicating with jurors, the judge must avoid any appearance of coercing a verdict.
After the Trial:
42. The trial judge may specially schedule the time for the verdict announcement in cases in which the judge is concerned about security or widespread public reaction to the verdict.
43. Courts should administer an anonymous questionnaire to a representative sample of people called for jury service to monitor juror reaction to jury service and to identify areas of juror dissatisfaction.
Declaration of Principles for Jury Service:
44. A Declaration of Principles for Jury Service should be posted in each court facility as a reminder of the importance of the jury's role in the judicial system and to ensure that jurors are treated with respect.
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