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.
A person shall be qualified for jury service if the person is[i]:
- a citizen of the U.S., who has attained the age of majority;
- residing within the geographical jurisdiction of the court in which called to serve;
- is able to read, write, understand and speak the English language;
- is capable, by reason of mental or physical condition, to render satisfactory jury service;
- Not served a term of imprisonment in this state after conviction of a felony.
The presiding judge may excuse a person for all or part of the person’s jury service upon individual request showing undue hardship on the prospective juror or the employer. The judge may order any person so excused to report within the person’s potential jury service in future[ii].
The jury commission for each county shall gather lists of names and addresses of persons residing in its county every year. The lists shall include registered voters, licensed drivers and other residents of the county who request to be added to the list of potential juror[iii].
The jury commission shall prepare a master juror list by randomly selecting from the lists of potential jurors by a method approved by the court administrator. The superior court clerk shall send a questionnaire to each person on the master juror list or to persons randomly selected for service on a particular pool or panel. With the approval of the court administrator, the superior court clerk may include with the questionnaire a summons directing the juror to serve on a jury panel in the district or superior court at such time and place as the presiding judge directs. The superior court clerk determines whether the person is unqualified for jury duty based upon the receipt of the questionnaire. Persons qualified for jury duty shall be listed in qualified master list
All information other than an individual’s address and date of birth contained in the questionnaire shall be public. Public access to the supplemental information supplied to determine whether the individual meets mental and physical demands shall be prohibited. All information contained in a jury questionnaire shall be available to the parties. The court shall keep a record of the reason for disqualification of any potential juror for a period of two years. If the master juror list exhausts before the end of the year, the jury commission may randomly select people from the potential juror list and add them to the master juror list[iv].
Upon order of the presiding judge of the district court, the superior court clerk shall send to the district court clerk the returned questionnaires of persons qualified to serve on jury duty. The superior court clerk shall send a sufficient number of questionnaires to provide persons to serve on jury duty in the district court for the year upon the order of the presiding judge. Jurors selected and summoned to serve on the superior court pool may also serve simultaneously on the district court pool. The remaining questionnaires of qualified persons are retained by the superior court clerk. These persons shall be eligible to serve on jury duty in the superior court for the year. Jurors selected and summoned to serve on the district court pool may also serve simultaneously on the superior court pool upon the direction of the presiding judge of the superior court. Court clerk may add names to the juror pool by randomly selecting more names from the master juror list at any time.
Any person who fails to return a completed questionnaire within ten days of its receipt may be summoned by the superior court clerk to appear before the clerk to fill out a questionnaire. If the person so summoned fails to appear, s/he shall be ordered to appear and show cause for the failure to comply with the summons. Any person who fails to appear pursuant to such order or who fails to show good cause for noncompliance may be found in contempt of court and shall be subject to the penalties for contempt. Any person who willfully misrepresents a material fact on the jury questionnaire for the purpose of avoiding or securing service as a juror may be fined not more than $ 50[v]. A juror who does not appear after being summoned, and does not submit an excuse satisfactory to the court in which the person was summoned to appear, shall be fined $ 50.
The district and superior court clerk shall randomly select from the juror pool a sufficient number of persons to serve on a jury panel and be summoned for voir dire upon the direction of the presiding judge. When there are an insufficient number of petit jurors to fill the jury for a trial, the presiding judge may order the sheriff or other court officer to summon additional jurors from the county to fill such panel. Person summoned to petit jury service shall not appear before the court for jury selection more than three times in any two year period.
The superior court clerk shall randomly select persons from the juror pool for grand jury duty upon the order of the presiding judge of the superior court. A grand jury shall consist of judicious persons not less than eighteen or more than twenty three who reside within the county. If there is no sufficient number of jurors to fill the panel for grand jury duty, the presiding judge may order the random selection of additional names from the master list or may order the sheriff or other court officer to summon a sufficient number of judicious persons from the county to fill such grand jury panel.
The court at any time may direct the clerk to distribute to prospective jurors written questionnaires to assist the voir dire examination. The voir dire questionnaire shall be prepared by the court administrator and shall solicit relevant information with only such questions as are necessary to empanel fair and impartial jurors. The court may direct the clerk to distribute a more detailed questionnaire in a particular case.
A record of the information provided in response to a written questionnaire distributed pursuant to this rule shall be open to the parties to the proceeding. A physical record of the information shall be open to public inspection after the name and address of the person responding have been redacted. Any electronic record of the information shall not be open to public inspection.
The clerk shall draw the names of twelve prospective jurors who shall be seated in the jury box and examined. The parties or their attorneys shall conduct the examination, but the court may ask additional questions to supplement the inquiry, or may conduct the examination upon agreement of the parties.
Challenges for cause of individual prospective jurors may be made at any time prior to the jury is impaneled. When a prospective juror is challenged and excused for cause, a replacement juror shall be drawn, seated, and examined.
After twelve prospective jurors have been seated in the jury box and examined, the parties or their attorneys may exercise their peremptory challenges. Such challenges shall be exercised by removing the name of the juror challenged from a list of the prospective jurors prepared by the clerk.
The court may direct that not more than two jurors in addition to the regular jury be called and impaneled to sit as alternate jurors[vi]. Qualifications, examination and challenges, oath, functions, powers, facilities, and privileges of alternate jurors are as same as the regular jurors. An alternate juror who does not replace a regular juror shall be discharged after the jury retires to consider its verdict. Each side is entitled to one peremptory challenge in addition to those otherwise allowed, whether one or two alternate jurors are to be impaneled. The additional peremptory challenge may be used against an alternate juror only, and the other peremptory challenges allowed by law shall not be used against him/her.
The court may direct that no more than six replacement jurors also be drawn when the original twelve prospective jurors or any alternatives are drawn. The replacement jurors shall be examined along with the prospective jurors or alternates. Replacement jurors shall, in the order they were seated, replace prospective or alternate jurors when they have been excused.
After the jury has been impaneled, the court may instruct the jury regarding the respective claims of the parties such other matters that will aid the jury in comprehending the trial procedure and in understanding the evidence. Such preliminary instructions shall be disclosed to the parties before they are given. Either party may object to any specific instruction or propose instructions to be given prior to trial.
[i] Vt. Jury Select. Rule 1
[ii] Vt. Jury Select. Rule 2
[iii] Vt. Jury Select. Rule 3
[iv] Vt. Jury Select. Rule 4
[v] Vt. Jury Select. Rule 10
[vi] V.R.C.P. Rule 47