“Voir dire” is usually referred to as the jury selection process. In reality, it should probably be called the jury de-selection process because it’s the time given to the court and the opposing attorneys to rid the jury pool of participants who are too conflicted or biased to be impartial.
Since voir dire is arguably one of the most routine processes that attorneys handle before a case, why do you need an appellate attorney present?
It’s all about preserving the right to an appeal
During voir dire, trial attorneys have to think on their feet. They may have to gauge each juror’s personality and beliefs from a questionnaire, then try to elicit more telling information through specific, probing questions.
Once they have some clarity about a juror’s beliefs, history and inclinations, they have to decide if they should accept the potential juror without further challenge, ask the court to strike the juror from the pool “for cause” (and hope the judge agrees) or use up one of their precious peremptory challenges.
That’s a big job. Since many attorneys believe that a trial is won or lost during jury selection, the trial attorney’s mind is on winning the case ahead, not the potential for an appeal.
That’s where an appellate attorney steps in. Voir dire can vary greatly from court to court and judge to judge — and it’s not always done as fairly as it should be. The appellate attorney’s role is to help the trial advocate preserve challenges made during voir dire for appeal by:
- Making timely objections during the jury selection process
- Articulating the reasons for the objection with specific clarity
- Stating the correct legal grounds for the objection
Unless these things are done, there may not be sufficient grounds for an appeal based on a juror’s selection (or de-selection) if the case isn’t a success.
You wouldn’t be heading to court if the outcome of the trial wasn’t important, so don’t take chances: Consider the value of an appellate attorney on your side from the very start.