Starting January 1, 2022, Arizona will become the first state to completely eliminate peremptory challenges from its jury selection process in both civil and criminal cases. This is a landmark decision that will likely have significant ramifications on future jury trials, verdicts, and the litigation process as a whole. So, what are peremptory challenges? How might the abolition of peremptory challenges impact personal injury cases? Torgenson Law is here to answer your questions.
Jury Selection & Peremptory Challenges
If you are an Arizona resident eighteen years or older you either have or likely will be summoned for jury duty. If you receive a jury summons, you must then report to the courthouse on a pre-set day for the jury selection process. This requires one to take time out of their everyday lives and jobs, and you receive nominal compensation for your participation. Obviously, for these reasons, most people find jury duty to be quite annoying. However, for Arizona courts, attorneys, and parties to the litigation, the jury selection process, known as voir dire, is a necessary part of civil and criminal procedure that can be crucial in the ultimate outcome of a particular lawsuit.
Voir dire, is the process by which judges and attorneys choose the individuals that will serve as jurors during criminal or civil trials. In choosing jurors, attorneys will ask each candidate a series of questions to determine if they have any biases or prejudices that might inhibit their ability to be impartial or otherwise be adverse to their client’s interests. Based on jurors’ respective answers, attorneys are permitted to formally request to excuse a particular juror for cause if their responses indicate that they are unable to remain impartial during trial.
In addition, attorneys have historically been afforded a limited number of peremptory challenges to excuse potential jurors. Peremptory challenges differ from challenges for cause in that they can be based entirely on an attorney’s instinct, do not require explanation, and the jurors are automatically excluded from the trial process. For example, in personal injury cases, a plaintiff’s attorney may want to excuse a potential juror who previously worked as an insurance adjuster. Simply the attorney’s fear that this potential juror will remain skeptical about his client’s injuries or damages justifies the use of a peremptory challenge.
Understandably, peremptory challenges have long been a topic of controversy, as they raise concerns related to racial and gender discrimination in the jury selection process. While they have been a common practice for over a century, peremptory challenges will be completely eliminated from Arizona state courts starting next year.
How Could This Impact Personal Injury Trials?
Until 2022, the jury is still out on the overall impact of the abolition of peremptory challenges in Arizona. Perhaps, even more personal injury cases will achieve pre-trial settlement as both defense and plaintiff’s attorneys fear biased and unpredictable jurors. It is possible that judges will grant more for cause challenges during the jury selection process in an effort to eliminate any shred of concern that a particular juror will be unfair during trial.
Ultimately, there is one obvious way to eliminate any and all concerns related to securing a fair and impartial jury for your personal injury case: Hire experienced and skilled Arizona Injury Lawyers that understand the nuances of jury selection and can formulate the appropriate and necessary voir dire questions to eliminate any and all biased jurors from your trail for cause.
At Torgenson Law, fairness and justice are our ultimate goals. We will stop at nothing to ensure you receive appropriate compensation for your personal injuries. Call us today at (602) 759-0012.