Friday Florida Law Update- Voir Dire

TGIF everyone, and welcome back for your Florida Law Update.  Today we will discuss a new Florida appellate issue regarding an issue that not only is confusing to most citizens, but also to most young lawyers with limited trial experience — Voir Dire a/k/a jury selection.

In Szymanski v. Cardiovascular Associates of Lake Cty, P.A., 2011 WL 1195812 (Fla. 5th DCA April 1, 2011), Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals reversed a jury verdict and remanded the case back to the circuit court for a new trial based on the trial court’s improper handling of the jury selection process.  Specifically, the trial court did not permit Plaintiff’s counsel the right to use his remaining peremptory challenge to “backstrike” a juror after alternative jurors were selected. 

Most of you are probably familiar with the term “peremptory challenge,” which permits each side with a set number of strikes (usually 3) to discard potential jurors on any grounds (other than those motivated by certain matters such as race, national origin, etc.).  “Backstriking” refers to the process whereby peremptory challenges can be used even after a juror survives an initial pass through the selection phase, except backstriking must be done before the jury is sworn in. 

In most cases where the trial is expected to last a significant period, one or more alternative jurors are selected after the initial six jurors pass through the selection phase without being challenged.   In Szymanski, the Fifth DCA dealt with the issue of whether a party can wait for the alternates to be selected before using its backstrike(s) on the original six jurors.  In other words, it is advantageous to know who your juror will be (the alternates) before using a backstrike.  At the trial level, the circuit judge required Plaintiff’s counsel to use his backstrike before the selection of alternates began. 

The Fifth DCA found this process to be reversible error, citing extensive authority for the proposition that the trial court must allow a party to exercise a remaining peremptory challenge before the jury is sworn. 

I just want to use this space also to attempt to brighten the spirits of those who sulk upon getting summoned to jury duty.  It is never convenient for any of us to drop our lives for a day or more for jury duty.  However, you are doing your community a great service and participating in a fair system that we cherish as a nation.  Embrace it . . .  and have a great weekend!!

DISCLOSURE:

THE COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG DO NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  NOR DO THEY CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.  They are provided for informational purposes only.  Actual legal advice can only be provided after consultation with an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. 
Explore posts in the same categories: Florida Law Updates

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