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 Wisconsin, persons for jury service are selected at random from the population of the area served by the circuit court.
Following are the qualifications of a juror[i]:
- Every resident of the area served by a circuit court;
- Citizen of U.S. who is at least 18 years of age;
- S/he should be able to understand English language.
The office of the director of state courts compiles a master list of potential jurors. Using the list of prospective jurors, the clerk of circuit court mails a juror qualification form requesting information necessary to determine if the person is qualified to serve as a juror in that circuit court and also the race of the prospective juror.
Whenever an issue is to be tried before a jury, the clerk of circuit court shall randomly select names from the jury venire until the desired number is obtained to create the jury panel[ii]. During selection, the judge and attorneys offer information about the case and also ask a series of questions to determine each juror’s ability to serve on the specific case before the court. The questioning is called voir dire which means “to speak the truth.”
The jurors selected to try the issues shall take an oath or affirmation to try the issues submitted to them and to give a verdict according to the law and the evidence given in court[iii].
The court shall examine jurors to discover whether they are related by blood, marriage or adoption to any party or to any attorney appearing in the case, or has any financial interest in the case, or has expressed or formed any opinion, or is aware of any bias or prejudice in the case. The court may order that additional jurors be selected.
Parties, usually through their attorney, have the opportunity to question individual jurors. These questions may inquire into a juror’s background, experiences, and beliefs. An attorney has a duty to ask questions to learn which jurors will provide his or her client with the fairest decision. Jurors must answer all questions honestly. The judge will see to it that the parties ask only questions that are appropriate and necessary. Many courts also use a written questionnaire to help in the selection process.
Each party shall be entitled to three peremptory challenges which shall be exercised alternately. In addition, each side shall be entitled to one peremptory challenge if additional jurors are to be selected[iv].
A jury in a civil case shall consist of 6 persons unless a party requests a greater number, not exceeding 12. When the required number of jurors has been chosen, the jury panel is sworn to fairly and impartially decide the case at issue.
[i] Wis. Stat. § 756.02
[ii] Wis. Stat. § 756.06
[iii] Wis. Stat. § 756.08
[iv] Wis. Stat. § 805.08