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Study on Connecticut federal juries

Dan Markel is excited by a study of Connecticut federal juries that he says helps "debunk" the understanding that jurors are less educated than the general population. But the paper's results aren't quite that strong. (Hillel Levin, "Is There a Bias Against Education in the Jury Selection Process?", 38 Conn. L. Rev. ___ (2006) (forthcoming)). First, as the paper itself notes (p. 25), it did not look at any trials that lasted longer than seven days. But it's the bigger, longer, more complex trials that concern litigation reformers most; not only are these the trial where more is usually at stake, it's precisely those trials that tend to exclude more highly educated members of the venire. Indeed, to the extent jury service has a "one trial or one day" rule, one would expect shorter trials to have a more highly educated group; the paper does not note this substitution effect. Second, venue shopping isn't feasible in the federal district of Connecticut the way it is in a county state court. Forum-shopping plaintiffs pick state courts in part because it's usually harder to skew federal juries, and you usually won't find the plaintiffs' bar picking the counties with the highly-educated pool of jurors.

There's a third factor that's difficult to measure empirically, but plaintiff-friendly judges have the power to use the voir dire process to favor the plaintiffs by upholding challenges "for cause" promiscuously, effectively giving the plaintiffs many more peremptory challenges than the defense; judges have sufficient discretion that such a practice is effectively unreviewable, especially because a defendant faced with such a jury will quickly capitulate to a settlement. A study of the venire in the courtrooms of nine federal judges isn't likely to pick that up.

Update: Don't miss the continued discussion.



Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.