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July 06, 2011

Tips For Successful Cause Challenges

Oftentimes, the success of a case can be greatly influenced by an attorney’s approach to jury selection. Likewise, the aspect that an attorney is in the most control over during this process is the construction and justification of cause challenges. A challenge for cause is a request by an attorney that a certain juror be dismissed because they cannot be impartial, fair, or competent to serve. A cause challenge must be supported by an explicit reason, such as a relationship with a party to the case, an obvious bias, or an inability to serve. Successful cause challenges can decrease the likelihood of jury misconduct, which can be detrimental to a case. To do this, attorneys must be capable of keeping jurors relaxed and at ease during examination, so they will feel more comfortable admitting any prejudices they may have.
Many attorneys who are proficient at producing challenges for cause use similar techniques. For instance, skilled attorneys remain non-judgmental in the behavior and questioning when interviewing jurors. It is unlikely a juror will admit their true opinion on a controversial issue if they feel people will be critical of them. A juror must feel their views are acceptable and legitimate, regardless of your own opinion. Moreover, a juror is also more likely to voice their opinion if they hear another juror voice a similar one first.
Next, an attorney must determine if a juror can remain fair and impartial despite any potential bias they may have. However, most people will never admit being unable to be fair and impartial because they like to view themselves as good, impartial, logical people. Therefore, skilled attorneys will begin by agreeing that they believe a juror will do their best to remain fair and objective, before following up by questioning if despite their best efforts, they may have difficulty in abandoning their feelings.
Additionally, it is equally important that an attorney shield their jurors who are more open about their opinions from a challenge for cause by the opposing side. An effective way to do this is by creating an opportunity for a juror to promise to set their ideals and opinions aside and only consider the facts of a case. It is acceptable for a juror be suspicious that the law has been broken, but it is important that they can promise not to assume so in the absence of any supporting evidence.
However, the most difficult element of this process comes at the end, getting the judge to consent. There are no set factors used to decide if a challenge for cause is legitimate and no two judges weigh the same factors equally. Sometimes the most obvious cause challenges are declined and this aspect is heavily influenced by what judge is hearing your case. Nonetheless, jury selection remains a factor with the potential to make or break an attorney’s case. Likewise, a proficient, knowledgeable approach to the selection process can significantly increase the probability that a case is decided by the most competent jurors possible.
Building and Defending Cause Challenges
Posted By: Eston Whiteside