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January 25, 2005

ABA on jury reform, cont'd

Last month the American Bar Association "released a draft of recommendations to revamp the jury system, from keeping more details about jurors private to allowing them to take notes and discuss cases with one another during trials", to quote the New York Law Journal's summary. In line with what we forecast in our Aug. 24 post on the subject, the association's task force rejected ideas that would work to limit lawyers' power (such as limiting peremptory challenges) while cautiously endorsing some ideas that might empower juries (note-taking, etc.) and make the experience of serving on a jury more agreeable.

The results are at best a mixed bag. Some of the innovations in the proposed principles are either good ideas on their face or at least are deserving of experimentation. But there's also a certain amount of the usual wagon-circling against critics of current ways of doing things, as well as downright lamentable ideas here and there. For example, the principles seek to end the practice, followed in some courts, of keeping voir dire in the judge's hands (with lawyers free to suggest questions or lines of inquiry to the judge). Instead, they urge that lawyers be given broad powers to question prospective jurors directly, even though such power is often misused.

The proposals are scheduled to be put up for ratification next month.

Posted by Walter Olson at 12:44 AM | TrackBack (0)




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