Friday, January 29, 2021

Remote Jury Selection


Rayvid's Jury Selection Platform Under Construction

Online jury selection looks like it is here to stay. During the pandemic, jury trials have been conducted remotely via Zoom. In King County, Washington, the Superior Court began with bench trials over Zoom and by the beginning of 2021 had conducted 100 of them. Then, the court started holding virtual civil jury trials. For all of these trials, the jurors remained at home and the other participants were either all or partially remote. Washington federal courts also began remote trials.

Not only is the court system evolving to accommodate conducting remote jury trials but also industry is adapting and evolving. A leader in this endeavor is Rayvid. Rayvid’s website explains:
 “Rayvid was founded at the start of the pandemic by former business and technical leaders from Amazon, Expedia and Google because we believe that the right technology can create a more equitable, efficient and accessible legal system.

“More people in the world now have access to the internet than to justice. This has been exacerbated by social distancing and quarantine but the underlying opportunity for justice to be more democratic will not disappear with a vaccine.”

Working with King County Superior Court, Rayvid has been constructing a jury selection platform. I watched an early mock jury selection using Rayvid. My Seattle University Law School students served as prospective jurors and veteran trial lawyers conducted voir dire with a King County Superior Court Judge presiding. All of the participants in the jury selection exercise were either at home or in an office. Rayvid has built its site specifically for jury selection. To view a video of the platform click here.

Remote jury selection has obvious benefits for both the court and the prospective jurors. Above all else it saves time and money. Jurors no longer need lose time at work to traipse downtown, park, and go to the courthouse where they sit for hours waiting to be sent out to a courtroom where they may never serve because they were excused during the jury selection process. It can involve more citizens in the jury selection process. As Rayvid points out, in Los Angeles county, 90 percent ignore their jury summons.

Thomas O’Toole, my co-author of Jury Selection Handbook: The Nuts and Bolts of Effective Jury Selection, along with Kevin Boully discussed remote trials in an article entitled “The Impact of Remote Trials on Jury Decision Making” (King Count Bar Bulletin January 2021). They wrote, “Zoom fundamentally changes the nature of the interaction between attorneys and jurors, making it much more difficult to build rapport.” Making a personal connection through a computer screen is just one aspect of remote jury selection that trial lawyers will need to adjust to. As the article points out, lawyers who are accustomed to moving around a courtroom and dramatically gesturing will have to consider how to adapt so as to be effective when they are viewed on a screen. While these and other differences from in-person jury selection are important for effective trial advocacy, the benefits of remote jury selection seem to outweigh them. 

When normalcy returns and trials return to the courtroom, it is hard to believe that the jury selection process will return to what it was. Remote jury selection saves both the court and prospective jurors time and money.

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