Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back
Back

Know the Law: Identifying the Impartial Juror

Written by: Amanda E. Quinlan

Published in the Union Leader (4/25/2021)

Q: What is an “impartial juror”?

A: We hear the right to trial by jury touted as one of the principles that forms “the bright constellation” of our democracy (Thomas Jefferson), and even “the palladium of our liberties” (Mark Twain – even though he admits to not knowing “what a palladium is,” he is “sure it is a good thing”).  But what does it mean in practice to be an impartial juror, and what do judges do to ensure the jury is not biased for one party or the other?

In this day and age of rapid communication and enough headlines to satisfy all news junkies’ appetite for information, it would be nearly impossible to empanel a jury that is entirely ignorant of the facts and issues involved in high profile cases, whether they be criminal trials or civil lawsuits.  Instead, impartiality means the juror can set aside his or her impression or opinion of the case and render a verdict based on only the evidence presented in court. 

To do this, the judge first instructs a group of potential jurors about the nature of the case to be presented, and any controversial pieces of the trial that may invoke bias.   For example, if the case is a civil suit involving a drunk driving accident, the case may invoke bias for some jurors who have family members injured or killed by drunk drivers.  

The judge and the parties’ attorneys then conduct voir dire—a preliminary examination of a juror—to inquire about past life experiences and opinions and understand what may or may not prevent a juror from being a neutral factfinder.  For example, if either party expects to have a police officer testify, the attorneys may ask a potential juror if he or she is more or less likely to believe a police officer’s testimony just because the individual is a police officer.  Neither the juror who gives more nor the juror who gives less weight based solely on the witness’s occupation is particularly impartial.  An attorney can move to exclude a potential juror who is biased in this way from the panel. 

Because trial by jury is considered to be a safeguard of our rights, jurors’ impartiality plays a major role in the execution of our constitution.  Although not always perfect, and undoubtedly time consuming, voir dire offers one avenue to ensure that impartiality. 

Amanda Quinlan can be reached at [email protected].

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be emailed to [email protected].  Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

Meet Our People

Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

Practice Areas

A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

The Firm

Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.