Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Sunday, November 2, 2014

So You Want To Be A Foreperson?

Although jury service may have a bad reputation, it is entirely possible that a person might aspire to not only be a juror but to be the leader of the jury. Aside from the judge, the foreperson is the most influential individual in the courtroom. This leadership extends to both the trial process as well as the substantive result. The foreperson carries a responsibility and authority that cannot be acquired in any other aspect of the judicial branch without years of prior seasoning. For the same reasons a people are attracted to working as a judge, they may also be attracted to serving as a foreperson. So how can one strive to become a foreperson? It is not an overtly controllable task.

The foreperson is still selected for general jury duty like any other juror. That said, someone aspiring to the position can increase their likelihood of selection slightly by ensuring conformity with the state’s jury pool selection procedure. Commonly chosen from driver’s license data and voter registration, it would be beneficial to not only be registered on both of these lists but also to make sure one’s address is up to date. However, if you are so lucky as to be drawn from the pool, there is still the voir dire process to make it through. Here, it is important that you do not exhibit any overt biases or lack of understanding of the trial process. This section on the road to foreperson selection is highly uncontrollable, with both attorney’s motives dictating much of the decisions.

Once impaneled, you finally can take proactive actions to becoming the foreperson. Research shows that sitting at the head of the table, being the first person to talk, being the first person to address the need for a foreperson, and simply volunteering for the role improves one’s chances for being chosen. All that said there are some less controllable constants in the demographics of jury forepersons. Statistically, forepersons are more likely to be male and older. Likewise, forepersons are more likely to have past jury experience and are more likely to be someone of higher prestige, either in career or education.

So you want to be a jury foreperson? Too bad, it is not your choice to make. And that is the central point here: unlikely the judge, the foreperson is not designed to be a job one can work hard and achieve. By design, the framework instead strives to place a reluctant leader into the role; a person who rises above the fray of their fellow jurors to the position so as only to prevent a lesser qualified person from doing so instead. Becoming a foreperson is mostly an exercise in chance, but should it be? That questions remains. There are many identifiable benefits of altering the selection process such as a more diverse pool of forepersons, better qualified leaders, and more stability in the system. For now though, the foreperson exists as a person of fortune, granted great influence over the system. And that is a fundamental, uncontrollable constant. So maybe the best way to strive to be a foreperson then, is to strive to change the system. 

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