I was speaking with a prominent plaintiff personal injury attorney in Seattle recently about the remote jury trials that are taking place in King County. When I asked him his thoughts, he said that he likes remote jury trials because he feels like he is getting better jury pools. This comment intrigued me, so we looked at our own internal data to see if there are any differences in the make-up of remote trial jury pools compared to in-person trials. Does this shift to technology change the make-up of the jury pool and if so, how?
We began by looking at the demographic data we have from remote jury trials in King County, Washington (Seattle). We combined the data from multiple trials to create a sample of roughly 165 jurors. Notably, this includes jury pools from cases where the entire trial was remote as well as cases where jury selection was remote, but the trial occurred in person. We have worked on cases in both scenarios. Since the fundamental question at issue is whether or not the technology requirement as an entry point to the case impacts the make-up of the pool, we thought it was appropriate to include data from these two types of cases.
Once we collected the data, we identified a similar number of jurors (roughly 165) from in-person trials in the year or two before the pandemic in King County.
The comparison between the two types of jury pools was interesting. We have a lot of data we are still working through, but in this blog, I want to highlight some of the immediate, notable differences related to demographics.
The most significant difference we noted was in the age category. In-person trials had an average age of 48.5 and median age of 49. With remote trials, the average age drops to 44.8 and the median age drops even further to 41.5. The median age is the more important point of comparison here. As a reminder, the median is the midpoint for all jurors, meaning 50% of the jury pool in remote trials is under 41.5 and 50% is over 41.5. That is a big difference from in-person trials where the median age is 49, but let’s dig a little deeper.
Consistent with the numbers above, the data shows a significant jump in the millennial) population (25-41-year-olds) with remote jury pools. The percentage of millennials that we observed in in-person trials in King County was 30%, which is fairly consistent with the national data we have on this issue. When we looked at remote jury pools, the percentage of millennials jumped to 43%! This jump is astonishing and very well may have stopped the heart of insurers and general counsel reading this post since millennials are often cited as one of the reasons for the recent trend towards nuclear verdicts. The biggest drop we observed was actually in the Gen X crowd (42-56-year-olds), going from 34% with in-person trials to 23% with remote trials, followed by Baby Boomers (57-75-year-olds), which dropped from 30% with in-person trials to 27% with remote trials.
Turning to the issue of race, we saw other notable differences. In-person jury pools were 81% white, compared to 71% with remote jury pools, which suggests that remote trials could result in greater diversity in our jury pools.
We also found some differences in educational background, though it should be noted that King County is unique because it has one of the highest educated jury pools in the United States. For in-person trials, 45% of the jury pool had a college degree. With remote jury pools, we observed a greater distribution in educational background, with the percentage of those with a college degree dropping to 31%. However, that does not necessarily mean remote jury pools are less educated. We saw the percentage of jurors with post-graduate degrees jump from 20% in-person to 27% with remote trials. We also saw increases with those who only have some college or have received an Associate’s or Technical degree.
We only observed two notable differences with employment status, both of which are somewhat consistent with the differences we observed with age. The percentage of those who are retired decreased from 11% in-person to 7% with remote trials. The percentage of students increased from 1% with in-person to 5% with remote trials.
Our plan is to dig deeper into the data we have collected, but the early observations paint a picture of a notably different jury pool – at least demographically, which could have significant implications for case strategy development.