Virginia 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 Virginia, the following persons shall be disqualified from serving as jurors:

  • Persons adjudicated incapacitated;
  • Persons convicted of treason or a felony; or
  • Any other person under a disability as defined in § 8.01-2[i].

No person shall be eligible to serve on any jury if s/he solicits or requests a jury commissioner to place his/her name in a jury box or in any way designate such person as a juror[ii].  No person shall be admitted to serve as a juror at a term of a court during which s/he has any matter of controversy which has been tried by a jury during the same term[iii].

The judge of each circuit court in which juries are impaneled shall be appointed for the next ensuing year not less than two or more than fifteen persons as jury commissioners, who shall be competent to serve as jurors.  The judge of the circuit court of a county having the urban county executive form of government may appoint jury commissioner in each year.  No practicing attorney at law, however, shall be appointed as a jury commissioner.  No jury commissioner shall be eligible to reappointment for at least three years after the expiration of the year for which he was appointed[iv].

Potential jurors are selected randomly by the jury commissioners using lists designated by the courts, such as the voter registration list and the driver’s license list either mechanically or electronically.  The commissioners shall make reasonable effort to exclude the names of deceased persons and unqualified persons from the master jury list.  After such random selection, the commissioners shall apply such statutory exceptions and exemptions as may be applicable to the names so selected.  The chief judge shall promulgate such procedural rules as are necessary to ensure the integrity of the random selection process and to ensure compliance with other provisions of law with respect to jury selection and service[v].

The clerk shall make and sign a list of the names on the ballots in alphabetical order showing the name, age, address, occupation and employer of each juror, and shall deliver an attested copy of the list to the sheriff.  The list shall be signed also by the judge or the commissioner in chancery appointed by the judge.  The list shall be available in the clerk’s office for inspection by counsel in any case to be tried by a jury during the term[vi].  The list shall include a notation indicating those persons who are freeholders.  The judge may from time to time order the commissioners to add additional number of jurors as the court shall direct and to strike down any who have become disqualified or exempt[vii].

The sheriff shall notify the jurors on the list, or such number of them as the judge may direct to appear in court on such day as the court may direct.  Jurors whose names appear in the list shall be used for the trial of civil and criminal cases[viii].  If any juror who has been given due notice to appear in court shall fail to do so without sufficient excuse, he shall be fined not less than $ 50 or more than $ 200[ix].

On the day on which jurors have been notified to appear, the judge may direct to be sworn on their voir dire until a panel free from exceptions shall be obtained.  The jurors shall be selected randomly.  The remaining jurors may be discharged or excused subject to such orders as the court shall make[x].  The court and counsel for either party shall have the right to examine under oath any person called as a juror.  They shall have the right to ask such person or juror directly any relevant question to ascertain whether he is related to either party, or has any interest in the cause, or has expressed or formed any opinion, or is sensible of any bias or prejudice.  The party objecting to any juror may give any competent evidence in support of the objection; and if the court finds it genuine, another person shall be drawn and paced in his/her place[xi].

Whenever the court feels that the trial of any criminal or civil case is likely to be a protracted one, it may direct the selection of additional jurors who shall be drawn from the same source, same manner and at the same time as the regular jurors.  These additional jurors shall have the same qualifications, and be considered and treated in every respect as regular jurors and be subject to examination and challenge as such jurors[xii].  If a juror is unable to perform his duty, after s/he is sworn, the court may in its discretion, cause another qualified juror to be sworn in.  The court may also discharge the jury when it appears that they cannot agree on a verdict or that there is a manifest necessity for such discharge[xiii].

Any court in a civil case may allow a special jury.  The court may in its discretion, cause the entire cost of such jury to be taxed as a part of the cost in such action, and to be paid by the plaintiff or defendant as the court shall direct[xiv].  If the qualified jurors who are not exempt from serving and can render a fair and impartial trial cannot be found in the county or city in which the trial is to be, the court may cause jurors necessary to be summoned from any other county or city by the sheriff or by its own officer, from a list prepared[xv].

[i] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-338

[ii] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-339

[iii]Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-340

[iv] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-343

[v]Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-345

[vi] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-351

[vii] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-346

[viii] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-355

[ix] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-356

[x] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-357

[xi] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-358

[xii] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-360

[xiii]Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-361

[xiv] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-362

[xv] Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-363

Inside Virginia Jury Selection