This past week, King County Superior Courts in Seattle, Washington laid out their plans for the resumption of civil jury trials. In an effort to avoid having large groups of jurors in the same place, jury selection will be conducted mostly over Zoom, which is a fascinating development that should cause many to rethink their jury selection strategy. However, the court has also noted that it intends to rely on the expanded use of supplemental juror questionnaires, though the parameters will likely vary from case to case and judge to judge. We have seen a lot of different supplemental juror questionnaires used by courts across the country ranging from a half-page sheet with almost no useful information to 47-page questionnaires with so much information that it was difficult to analyze in the time that we were given. Continue reading →
Yesterday, Seattle Public Schools announced that remote learning will continue indefinitely, meaning public school kids are not going back to school in the fall. A city-wide collective groan followed the announcement. While parents recognize the importance of protecting the health and safety of our community, they also recognize that it is incredibly difficult to have the kids at home every day while they are trying to work from home or manage other aspects of their lives.
This is just one of the many tough realities that your jury pool is facing during the pandemic. Many have lost their jobs or face job uncertainty. Even those who seem secure in their jobs for now may fear the unknown future. The financial impact on jurors creates a tremendous amount of stress. Some have lost loved ones while others fear that they might be the next diagnosis. Additionally, your jurors have been in some variation of isolation for months. The emotional impact of not being able to be around those we care about is difficult to quantify. Continue reading →
For the past couple of years, we’ve been conducting national surveys on a variety of subjects in order to find out what kinds of widely held beliefs jurors bring into the courtroom. This data has helped inform many litigation strategies, witness preparation efforts, and jury de-selection strategies. Recently, we put all the questions together, added COVID specific questions, and conducted our largest nationwide survey yet. All of the data was collected in May 2020. The data not only tells us about how the jury pool will likely be different in the foreseeable future due to the fact that approximately 45% of the population responded that they would ignore a jury summons because of health/safety concerns, but it also shows us how attitudes have shifted as a result of the pandemic. Here are just a few areas where we saw some swings. Continue reading →
This week, I had the privilege of being interviewed by Above the Law about the research we have been conducting on how the pandemic impacts the jury pool and jury decision-making in general. Our findings have significant implications for trial scheduling and strategy development, making this episode well worth the listen. However, this only scratches the surface on the data that we have collected. We hope to publish more and more findings as we work through the data analysis in the coming weeks.
Mock jurors sit at least six feet apart with masks and other health and safety measures in place.
By Jill D. Schmid, Ph.D.
It was awesome to get back to conducting in-person mock trial research this past weekend! While things looked a bit different, it still checked off all the boxes for a successful project and, as always, we gained some incredibly important insights that will help us prepare for trial. Part of the reason this project was so important is because so many attorneys are wondering if mock trial research is even possible in the coming months. The answer is a resounding yes and, most important, there are a variety of ways to conduct the research while protecting the health and safety of everyone involved. This is important because, while so many in our industry were quick to put into the place the ability to conduct online mock trials, the reality is that online mock trials simply do not live up to the real thing and many attorneys understandably do not want to go that route. Here are some specifics about our project this past weekend to give you a very clear picture of how these can be fielded in the coming months: Continue reading →
It is the question on every litigator’s mind: What impact, if any, will the pandemic have on jury decision-making once trials resume? Will there be more goodwill towards businesses because of the economic toll the pandemic has taken? Will perceptions of a widening rich/poor gap perpetuate social inflation and nuclear verdicts? The questions go on and on and it is important to have answers to them. I expect that many organizations will purport to have those answers, but those answers might be misleading or flat-out wrong for one very important reason. Continue reading →
As the country starts to re-open and jury trials resume, it is our job to research and understand what impact the pandemic and the stay-at-home orders that lasted over two months in some states will have on how jurors evaluate liability and damages going forward. There are many ways to approach this kind of research. For example, we just completed on of the largest surveys we have ever conducted in order to get specific answers to some of the questions we know attorneys and general counsel will have. We are currently in the process of analyzing all of that data.
It is also important to look back in history to other significant events for points of comparison. Everyone I talk to immediately draws comparisons to the 2008 recession, which makes a lot of sense given the economic parallels. When I have suggested looking at September 11, many brush off the suggestion, arguing that it is simply not comparable. However, delving behind assumptions, it becomes clear that there are some very important connections that are worth examination. Continue reading →
We have officially entered the eighth week of the stay-at-home order in Washington State. Six days ago, our governor announced there would be no jury trials in the state until at least July. During this time, we have had at least a dozen cases across the country that were supposed to go to trial, but now await an uncertain future. In the next few months, we have another dozen cases that are supposed to go to trial, but those are uncertain, too, as courts will surely be dealing with enormous scheduling challenges. Fortunately, we have remained busy during this time while still benefiting from the opportunity to devote some time to reflect and explore new ways to approach our practice, not only out of concern for the COVID health issues, but also as part of our constant effort to improve the quality of our services. Among the many questions we have been asked, three, in particular, stand out. I will address each of these in this week’s blog. Continue reading →