Jury selection refers to a procedure employed to choose the people from among the community using a reasonably random method to serve on a trial jury. In California,the trial by jury is a cherished constitutional right, and jury service is an obligation of citizenship.
It is the policy of the State of California that all persons selected for jury service shall be selected at random from the population of the area served by the court. All qualified persons have an equal opportunity to be considered for jury service in the state and an obligation to serve as jurors when summoned for that purpose[i]. It is the responsibility of jury commissioners to manage all jury systems in an efficient, equitable, and cost-effective manner.
In each county, there shall be one jury commissioner who shall be appointed by, and serve at the pleasure of, a majority of the judges of the superior court. The jury commissioner shall manage the jury system under the general supervision of the court. H/She have authority to establish policies and procedures necessary to fulfill responsibilities of a jury commissioner[ii].
In any superior court, a separate trial jury panel may be drawn, summoned, and impaneled for each judge, or before any of the judges, as occasion may require. Random selection is utilized in creating master and qualified juror lists, commencing with selection from source lists[iii], and continuing through selection of prospective jurors for voir dire. The jury commissioner shall, at least once in each 12-month period, randomly select names of prospective trial jurors from the source list or lists, to create a master list.
All persons are eligible and qualified to be prospective trial jurors, except the following:
- Persons who are not citizens of the United States;
- Persons who are less than 18 years of age;
- Persons who are not domiciliary of the State of California;
- Persons who are not residents of the jurisdiction;
- Persons who have been convicted of malfeasance in office or a felony, and whose civil rights have not been restored;
- Persons who are not possessed of sufficient knowledge of the English language;
- Persons who are serving as grand or trial jurors in any court of California; and
- Persons who are the subject of conservatorship [iv].
To select a fair and impartial jury in civil jury trials, the trial judge shall examine the prospective jurors. Upon completion of the judge’s initial examination, counsel for each party shall have the right to examine, by oral and direct questioning, any of the prospective jurors in order to enable counsel to intelligently exercise both peremptory challenges and challenges for cause. In civil cases, the court may, permit counsel to examine the prospective jurors outside a judge’s presence.
The names of qualified jurors drawn from the qualified juror list for the superior court is made available to the public upon request unless the court determines that a compelling interest requires that this information should be kept confidential or its use limited in whole or in part.
[i] Cal Code Civ Proc § 191 (2009)
[ii]Cal Code Civ Proc § 195 (2009)
[iii] Cal Code Civ Proc § 197 (2009)
[iv] Cal Code Civ Proc § 203 (2009)