On Friday, June 14, 2024, Colorado Politics reported that the Chief Federal Judge in Colorado Philip A. Brimmer led a tutorial for attorneys on jury selection techniques at the Alfred A. Arraj U.S. Courthouse. The session provided lessons on best practices for voir dire, the portion of the jury selection process where attorneys can question potential jurors.

Judge Brimmer started by emphasizing the importance of actively listening to jurors during voir dire. He noted it is common for attorneys to mispronounce a juror’s name if they are not paying close attention when the juror states it. Judge Brimmer and two trial attorneys, David Beller, and Valeria Spencer, then conducted demonstration voir dires with a mock group of jurors to illustrate proper and improper techniques.

In the first “bad” demonstration, Spencer representing a plaintiff asked jurors only yes or no questions without verifying their responses. Beller, representing defendants, spent too long making small talk rather than obtaining useful information. Judge Brimmer interrupted to correct Spencer when she failed to note jurors’ answers. This showed the voir dires did not elicit helpful information about biases.

The “good” demonstration showed better practices. Spencer asked one juror detailed questions about his family to build rapport. She then asked other jurors if they believed him and why, surfacing how they evaluate stranger’s credibility. This was relevant as her client’s testimony would be key. Beller inquired about juror views on the #MeToo movement to explore possible biases on claims of sexual harassment or violence.

Spencer said she assessed credibility because of expected conflicting testimony. Beller aimed to identify biases that could sway the hypothetical case outcome if held by a juror. Both obtained insights that could inform jury selection strategies. Judge Brimmer noted attorneys must balance casual conversation with emphasizing a case’s seriousness.

In another part of the tutorial, Judge Brimmer recalled presiding over a case with a black defendant accused of defrauding white victims. The defense showed a video on implicit bias, shifting jurors’ perspectives on prejudice. Judge Brimmer affirmed implicit bias as tricky to address but worthwhile.

The attorneys also provided context on jury trials in federal court. Only 51 were completed in Colorado in 2022, far fewer than case filings. Judges have acknowledged this rarity, and the 2020 slowdown from COVID-19 has left attorneys rustier. Judge Charlotte Sweeney now routinely schedules oral arguments in motions to help practitioners reacclimate.

Overall, the session offered pragmatic tips. Both sides should envision their ideal juror and opponents. Attorneys were advised to avoid assumptions based on appearance alone and instead uncover potential biases through respectful dialogue. With jury trials infrequent yet critical, the tutorials aimed to strengthen legal skills and fairness in Colorado’s federal judicial process.



Source: Colorado Politics