Thursday, April 7, 2011
BOOKLET REVIEW OF VOIR DIRE
Jury Selection Booklet by Karen Koehler
Stumbled across this gem of an 85-page booklet on jury selection, and it’s free. It is published on the website of the plaintiffs’ personal injury law firm of Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio. The booklet, Voir Dire (December 2010), was written by Karen Koehler (pictured to right), known to some of her opposing counsel as “The Velvet Hammer.”
Voir Dire contains practical advice for novice and experienced attorneys as well as law students. Rather than being a tedious manual, the booklet is engaging and entertaining. This combination of practical and interesting is the result of combining Karen Koehler’s trial diary, in which she recounts in the first person her experiences in jury selection, with excerpts from the law firm’s voir dire brief, which was primarily written by Ray Kahler and Garth Jones with contributions by other members of the firm.
Examples of the practical are systems for keeping track of jurors (grid with sticky notes vs. a chart), three pages of tips on how to establish a human connection with the jurors, five bad habits of trial lawyers in jury selection with rehabilitation advice to rid yourself of those habits, pluses and minuses of jury questionnaires along with a sample questionnaire, and the law on jury selection, (such as case law to the effect that coaxed recantations as a result of counsel’s leading questions designed to rehabilitate a juror who has been challenged for cause fail to establish impartiality).
Examples of Koehler’s engaging and on-point trial accounts include Judge McD putting the end to a mutiny by the prospective jurors (during the judge’s reading of a neutral statement of the case, “. . .a 72 year old retired Boeing engineer hollers [yes hollers] out something along the lines of how disgusted he is that people won’t take personal responsibility for their own actions and have to blame someone else” followed by another juror exclaiming about how ridiculous it is) and her voir dire about damages in an admitted liability case, jurors becoming entrenched (“I cannot enter a judgment against the defendant – I have no idea if it would force him into poverty. . .”) and Ms. Koehler wielding her challenges for cause, resulting in so many jurors being excused that a mistrial must be declared.
I highly recommend Voir Dire, and did I mention it is free and can be located on the Stritmatter Kessler Whelan Coluccio website.