Montana Jury Selection

Jury selection is the procedure whereby persons from the community are called to court, questioned by the litigants as to their qualifications to serve as a juror and then either selected to or rejected to serve as a juror.  In the state of Montana, a person is competent to act as a juror if the person is:

  • 18 years of age or older;
  • a resident for at least 30 days of the state and of the city, town, or county in which the person is called for jury duty; and
  • a citizen of the United States.[i]

When an issue of fact to be tried by a jury is brought to trial, the district judge or jury commissioner in the presence of two witnesses must openly draw out of the trial juror box as many of the ballots with the names of jurors[ii].  The district judge or the jury commissioner must draw at random a ballot with the juror’s name thereon. Upon stipulation of counsel, the court may order the clerk to draw ballots.  The first 12 persons, or such other number, will constitute the jury.[iii] If for any reason a sufficient number of jurors to try the issue is not obtained from the persons notified, the court may make or order further drawings until a sufficient number is obtained.

Each party may challenge the jury or jurors for the panel or array for cause and peremptory.[iv] A challenge to the array or panel may be made and the whole array or panel may be set aside by the court when the jury was not selected as prescribed by law.  There can be only one challenge on a side to the array or panel, which may be made by one or more of the parties.[v]

Challenges for cause may be taken

  • for a want of any of the qualifications prescribed by law to render a person competent as a juror;
  • being the spouse of or related to a party by consanguinity or affinity within the sixth degree;
  • standing in the relation of guardian and ward, debtor and creditor, employer and employee, or principal and agent to either party or being a partner in business with either party or surety on any bond or obligation for either party;
  • having served as a juror or been a witness on a previous trial between the same parties for the same cause of action;
  • interest on the part of the juror in the event of the action or in the main question involved in the action, except the juror’s interest as a member or citizen of a municipal corporation;
  • having an unqualified opinion or belief as to the merits of the action;
  • the existence of a state of mind in the juror evincing enmity against or bias in favor of either party.[vi]

Each party is entitled to four peremptory challenges, except when a six-person jury is authorized by law, each side shall have two peremptory challenges.  When the parties agree upon a jury consisting of a number of persons other than 6 or 12, they shall also agree in open court, with the approval of the court, upon the number of peremptory challenges to be allowed, not to exceed four.[vii]

The court or the jury commissioner with the approval of the court shall excuse a person from jury service upon finding that jury service would entail undue hardship for the person, a dependent of the person, or the public served by the person.[viii]

[i] Mont. Code Anno., § 3-15-301

[ii] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-202

[iii] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-205

[iv] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-221

[v] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-222

[vi] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-223

[vii] Mont. Code Anno., § 25-7-224

[viii] Mont. Code Anno., § 3-15-313

Inside Montana Jury Selection